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Using Jesus to sell the Census
Are elected officials mixing church and state by using religious imagery on posters promoting the U.S. Census?
 

To encourage Spanish speakers to participate in the 2010 Census, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials has created a poster showing Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem to be counted by the Romans. "This is how Jesus was born: Joseph and Mary participated in the Census," reads the tagline, referencing the Gospel of Luke. The Rev. Miguel Rivera, an evangelical pastor urging Hispanics to boycott the Census to demand immigration reform, had declared the poster "violates the concept of separation of church and state" and is an "assault" on Christianity. Should government officials be using the Nativity narrative to promote the Census?

Using Jesus as a pitchman is wrong: "It cheapens Jesus" to use him in a Census ad, says theology professor Obery Hendricks Jr., quoted in The Washington Post. Jesus "was born in a time of terrible tumult" and oppression. The "all is calm, all is bright" image makes light of Jesus' story.
"Hispanic leaders disagree over Christmas-themed census poster"

Census boycotters are the ones who dragged religion into this: "Whether the poster is in poor taste or not," says Andrea Nill in Think Progress. Rev. Miguel Rivera — not the National Association of Latino Elected Officials — was the one who put this discussion about the 2010 Census on religious turf. Using his influence as a reverend, Rivera has been urging illegal immigrants and others to boycott the Census until Congress passes immigration reform. NALEO felt the need to respond, because Hispanics will suffer if the Census undercounts them.
"Latino group invokes the Bible to counter a pastor's Census boycott campaign, encourage participation"

Either way, this is poor salesmanship: This "no Census, no Jesus" message is just a bad way to sell the Census, says Ryan W. McMaken in LewRockwell.com. According to the Gospel of Luke, the population count Mary and Joseph traveled for was "a bad thing." It was part of a scheme to raise money from the Israelites for Caesar Augustus, because "crucifying Jewish dissidents" was expensive work — hardly the story you want to tell immigrants who are nervous about being counted.
"In hoc signo vinces"

 

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