The Humanist Society says people who are religion-free still tick census boxes saying they are of a particular religion for historic or family reasons.
The society says that while answering religious questions on the census might seem unimportant, it can affect educational policies and public services.
According to the British Social Attitudes survey (BSAS), 61.2% of people in the North East say they are non-religious compared to 23.4% in the last census in 2011.
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They add that the non-religious make up 52% of the British population, but this was not reflected in the 2011 Census data which recorded only 25%. The Humanist Society has now launched their “If you’re not religious, say so!” campaign.
North East Humanist Society’s chair Susan Walker said: “The census is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for the non-religious majority to make sure that they are counted.
“The leading nature of the census religion question, which effectively asks ‘What religion are you?’ rather than ‘Do you have a religion?’ ’has caused the non-religious to be under-represented in government decision-making over the last decade.
“Exaggerated religion figures have meant time and money gets spent on maintaining unfair religious discrimination in our society.
“Over the last decade, this has included increasing the number of faith schools, enforcing compulsory worship in schools, contracting out public services to religious organisations and preserving the role of unelected religious figures in the House of Lords.
“It is essential we do not allow this to continue for another next 10 years, so our message to North East people taking the census is: ‘If you’re not religious, say so!’
“It is time for the majority to be really heard and for their voices to shape a fairer future for the next generation.
”It seems like such a small thing but the reality is that it is such an important question that people don’t put down what their family history might be when it comes to religion but instead mark the fact that they themselves are non-religious.”
Census 2021 is on Sunday, March 21.