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Millions reached in campaign to get people to tick ‘no religion’ on the Census

Millions of people have been reached by the campaign to get people who have no religious beliefs and do not practise a religion to tick the ‘no religion’ option on the 2021 Census, making the campaign the largest running around the Census.

At least 8 million people have seen the Census Campaign online since it launched at the end of February, and over 5,000 tweets in support of the campaign including by high-profile supporters like Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Alice Roberts, and Rufus Hound have put the campaign in front of millions more.

Analysis provided by TweetBinder for the period also shows that Humanists UK’s tweets have been the most retweeted among those using the official #Census2021 hashtag since the campaign launched – showing the campaign had a larger reach than high-profile protests around answers on sex, national identity, or the environment.

Adverts have also been placed on Google, Reddit, and Instagram, and in newspapers and magazines with a large number of non-religious subscribers – all with the simple message, ‘If you’re not religious, say so!’

Why are humanists campaigning on the Census?

The biased and leading nature of the Census question on religion has in the past encouraged many people with no religious beliefs and no religious identity to nonetheless tick a religious box out of cultural affiliation. In 2011 the consequence was that, compared with more accurate surveys, the number of non-religious people was cut in half.

This matters because censuses are used by governments and local authorities to make important policy decisions. These include how to allocate funding to state services such as education, health, social care, and pastoral care. The continuing requirement for compulsory Christian worship in state schools is justified based on the Census results, as is the ever-increasing number of state faith schools, and aspects of our constitutional settlement like, for example, the ongoing presence of 26 bishops voting in Parliament.

How the Census Campaign has changed since 2011

The equivalent campaign ten years ago focused largely on posters, buses, and billboards, although the campaign ran into difficulty when in an unprecedented move, a number of adverts were blocked from appearing by the Committee for Advertising Practice on the basis that the slogan, ‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so’, would cause religious offence. As a result the campaign instead also turned to door-to-door delivery of flyers and handing out leaflets at commuter hubs, with tens of thousands distributed.

This time, the pandemic has meant that outdoor advertising has seemed less appropriate, and handing out leaflets has not been possible. As a result the campaign has turned to online and print media advertising, with adverts placed in newspapers and magazines and window posters distributed to its members. But the result, aided by the substantial growth in Humanists UK over the last decade, has meant that millions more people have been reached than before.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented,

‘In a year when there are new questions being added to the Census that have attracted significant attention, it is very welcome that the campaign that has resonated most with the public is the effort to get people to tick “no religion”.

‘Our message is very simple: if you’re not religious, you should say so on the Census. This is because Census results are used to justify things like the ongoing provision of state faith schools, and compulsory religious worship in other state schools. We are urging the public to recognise the consequences of the box they tick and act accordingly.’

Polling conducted by YouGov in late February suggests that most people who tick ‘Christian’ will do so because of their religious upbringing, as opposed to their beliefs or practices today. Most attend a place of worship less than once a year, outside the pandemic, and only a minority said they are ‘religious’.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read about YouGov’s Census polling.

Read about how the online Census enables apostates to privately state their beliefs for the first time.

Read more about our work on the 2021 Census.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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