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Utah pushes census to count Mormon missionaries

Mormon missionaries

Well, here’s a census controversy we hadn’t counted on.

Usually, when the Census Bureau gets embroiled in a political spat — and it seems to do that every 10 years — it’s usually over how to tally the homeless or undocumented immigrants.

But this controversy centers on Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Officials there are in a dither because the bureau won’t count all those Mormon missionaries sent overseas. The Salt Lake Tribune recently explained what’s up:

This isn’t simply a quibble over statistics. The decennial population count is vitally important for states because a bigger population means more members of Congress and more tax money.

In the most recent Census, taken in 2000, Utah fell just 857 people short of receiving the last available U.S. House seat and this discrepancy in how Americans are counted overseas made all the difference.

One less congressman for a lack of 857 residents? That’s right. And, from the Utah perspective, it gets even worse when one considers North Carolina, which claimed the 435th seat in the House in large part because of the state’s military bases. Again, the Tribune explains:

The Census included the overseas military in 1970, 1990 and 2000 because of congressional pressure. The Bureau has made previous attempts to count all Americans abroad, but that population has never been used to apportion House seats.

Utah took the Census Bureau to court about all this but got rebuffed by the Supreme Court. So now Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, joined by fellow Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, has introduced a bill that would compel the Census Bureau to allow for Americans living overseas to be counted in the decennial census.

 “The Census Bureau could fix this problem right now and count Americans abroad, but they refuse to and are sitting on their hands until Congress makes them do this,” Bishop said in a statement this summer. “It seems there is no other solution other than mandating that the Census Bureau change their policy immediately.”

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Mormon missionaries on the move. Credit: Los Angeles Times  

 
Comments () | Archives (5)

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So this made the news in LA? huh.

I wonder how Bishop and Chaffetz are helping Utah by including all Americans living abroad? Do they think Utah has a higher number of out-of-country residents than other states? And if by chance it does, how the Bishop and Chaffetz get the rest of the country to vote for this bill that would give Utah a greater advantage in the census? Hmmm.

If they don't live in the states they shouldn't be counted. If they want them counted then don't send them to live somewhere else.

Chris, missionaries do not move to their mission locations. They are simply visitors. They continue to hold their official and legal residencies here in the states. Even those that serve within the US still hold their legal residence from the state they came from.

This is just proof that discriminating against Mormons (even by the government) is socially acceptable.

As a veteran of twenty plus years in Utah, I can tell you that government in Utah is by, for, and of the "Church" as the LDS headquarters is commonly referred to. State lawmakers regularly test each and every issue with church officials. It is no different with Congressmen and Senators. They hope to add one more representative to block national Democratic reforms from the very reddest of states. Given the long term internal gerrymandering there is no doubt only Republican representation could be added.

Much to the consternation of the rest of the state, Salt Lake City proper is heavily democratic and an island of comparative liberalism. Congressman Jim Matheson (the only blue dog) is constantly challenged by an other-worldly assortment of the right wing that makes John Birch seem somewhere left of Lenin.

Sadly, a sense of persecution left over from the martyrdom of Joseph Smith pervades the state and rejection of this proposal will once again only fuel their fears of the Federal Government and religious bigotry. Why couldn't get this proposal through the entire Bush/Cheney era? Continuing to push this issue is just political calculation and pandering to those voters who still feel outside of the mainstream. I say let them earn it with real numbers like every other state had to.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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