SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A federal judge said Wednesday it would be ``wildly'' unfair to count Utah's Mormon missionaries overseas in the 2000 Census because other Americans abroad can't be so easily counted.

``Including only missionaries would not advance the cause of equal representation,'' said Stephen Anderson, a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

Anderson is one of three federal judges hearing Utah's complaint that it lost an extra congressional seat because the Census Bureau did not count 11,176 Utah residents who were overseas on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A complex allocation formula left Utah just 857 residents shy of gaining an extra congressional seat that went to North Carolina instead. Should Utah win its argument, its congressional seat would come at North Carolina's expense.

However, Anderson told Utah's lead attorney, Thomas Lee, to abandon his argument for including missionaries in the census.

Lee, a law professor at church-owned Brigham Young University, switched to arguing that the Census Bureau should exclude all federal employees overseas, including members of the armed forces.

Either result, Utah officials say, would give the state a fourth seat in the U.S. House.

Under present rules, the bureau counts only federal workers and military personnel, leaving out missionaries and American employees on overseas assignments.