Monday, March 22, 2010

Is it illegal to refuse to answer the census questions?

Section 221 of the Title 13 of the United States Code says this:

(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100.

(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no person shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious beliefs or to membership in a religious body.

Whatever that means, who knows the limits of what is a "census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title"?

1 comment:

The Jaded JD said...

$100 seems like a token civil penalty. "To answer any questions" sounds like an aggregate offense, too, so it would be $100 for the refusal in whole, rather than for each question refused.

I wonder whether the language in subsection (b) intends to remove lying on the census from the broader, criminal false statements prohibition in 18 U.S.C. Section 1001(a)(2).