Does Oregon really have seven times as many clergymen per capita than the U.S. average? Preliminary statistics released last year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics seemed to indicate that, even though the Northwest is famously unchurched. If the statistics were accurate, than Oregon would have the highest concentration of clergy found anywhere in the United States.
But the statistics are not accurate as discovered by the Statesman Journal. Clergy were simply counted much better in Oregon than nationwide because of a 1989 Oregon Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Rogue Valley Youth For Christ. There, the Court ruled that non-profit churches and other religious organizations are required to pay unemployment taxes just like for-profit businesses. Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics only tracks paid employees covered by state unemployment insurance, it doesn’t count clergy in any other state because no other state makes religious organizations pay unemployment taxes.
The Bureau of Labor statisticians questioned the data because it appeared to be so anomalous; Oregon clergy weren’t surprised by the original, inaccurate number at all. In fact, they said that number of religious people in the Northwest is growing. Nondenominational evangelical churches are gaining adherents.
Oregon doesn’t have more clergy; it just counts them better.
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