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Jesus posters promoting Census raise ire

By Ed O'Keefe
An image of a poster distributed to churches nationwide. (Image courtesy of NALEO)

By Carol Morello and Ed O'Keefe

A poster showing Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem for a census and the birth of Christ is raising eyebrows among some evangelicals who consider it an inappropriate use of Christian symbolism for the secular headcount the government will conduct next year.

Thousands of the posters created by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) have been distributed to churches in an effort to raise awareness of the census among Hispanics. Most were printed in Spanish.

Luke 2:1-4 says that Jesus was born during a census ordered by Caesar Augustus so that the Roman world could be taxed. Though some historians question the accuracy of the account, Luke stated that everyone had to return to his ancestral town to be registered and taxed. Joseph went with Mary to Bethlehem.

The NALEO poster depicts that journey with an outline of Joseph leading Mary on a mule down a hillside in the direction of a large star. “This is how Jesus was born,” the poster says. “Joseph and Mary participated in the census.” In smaller letters to the side, it adds, “Don’t be afraid.”

The posters were dreamed up by NALEO, which is one of 136,000 “partners” to the Census Bureau, all volunteer organizations that are helping spread the message that the census is important, easy and safe. NALEO has been at the forefront of a national coalition of Latino groups promoting the census in a campaign called Ya es Hora, ¡Hagase Contar! or It’s Time, Make Yourself Count.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 15, 2009; 3:02 PM ET
Categories:  Census  
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