Last week I filled out the form for the 2010 Census, and like many others, I participated in an organized protest regarding the questions about my race and ethnicity. This action was spurred by this post by Mark Krikorian on The Corner.
For those unfamiliar with the protest, Krikorian summed it up as follows:
Fully one-quarter of the space on this year’s form is taken up with questions of race and ethnicity, which are clearly illegitimate and none of the government’s business…So until we succeed in building the needed wall of separation between race and state, I have a proposal. Question 9 on the census form asks “What is Person 1′s race)”…we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — “Some other race” — and writing in “American.” It’s a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes.
The fact that we would even be asked such a question is a sign that institutionalized racism exists in today’s society, and since the U.S. government is certainly the most aggressive promoter of such racism, Krikorian’s appeal seemed to me like a worthwhile endeavor. Therefore, I filled out Question 9 on my census form as depicted in the following image:
However, as I learned prior to taking this action, such a “protest” may not be entirely legal. In this post on the Foundry, Hans von Spakovsky warned protest participants about some of the potential consequences:
In Article I, Section 2, the Constitution says that an “Enumeration” must be conducted every ten years “in such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct.” Congress has directed through a federal law that anyone who “refuses or willfully neglects…to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions” on the Census form can be fined $100 (13 U.S.C. § 221). If you deliberately give a false answer, you can be fined up to $500.
Given that I feel like I am actually answering to the best of my knowledge (I feel far more “American” than “White”), I would say I am legally in the clear. Even if I’m not, actual prosecutions on census “neglect” are few and far between. But I still wonder if I’ll be getting a call anytime soon.
Either way, I don’t really care. But should I?
How does this square with our individual responsibility to submit to earthly kingdoms? Must I be in 100% agreement with the government in order to do what they ask of me? Certainly I think we are obliged to pay our taxes as Jesus instructed, but is there ever a point where we should stop and say, “I don’t agree with this, and I’m going to break the law”?
Throughout history Christians have resisted plenty of government imperatives (and still do), but do each of our illegal acts vary in legitimacy? For example, if the government demands that I renounce Jesus, this would absolutely be a legitimate “protest” of government imposition. But what about this census stuff? Compared to compelling blasphemy, this is pretty petty stuff. Even when it comes to racism, is the racism in the census as protest-worthy as, say, the type of blatant racism Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up against? Where do we draw the line when it comes to peaceful dissent? Does it simply boil down to each individual’s willingness to stand on principle and pay the earthly consequences if necessary?
What do you think?