multiethnic coalition of Georgia pastors and community leaders summoned the Biblical image of Joseph and Mary to urge minority residents to participate in the 2010 Census or risk forfeiting federal aid to states based on population.

They urged black, Latino and Asian communities, which they say were undercounted due to low participation during the last census, to view participating as a civic duty and a biblical mandate.

Multi-lingual posters lined the room in Atlanta where the meeting was held depicting a man and woman trekking across a desert and the words "Joseph and Mary participated in the Census. Don’t be afraid."

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials organized the event.

The news conference was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the famed spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. During his era, minorities fought for basic inclusion.

But Tuesday, coalition leaders said too many have become comfortable being invisible. One coalition estimate put the Asian population in Gwinnett County, for example, at 10 times the 2000 census estimate.

They blamed the low count on language barriers and an unwillingness to fill out Census forms.

Yet community leaders say they must be overcome if Georgia’s minorities are to benefit from federal cash.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, information collected during the survey helps determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services ranging from schools and hospitals to job training centers.

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