55 Federal Agencies Track Religious Objection Requests
As many as 55 federal departments and agencies have created 57 rule changes to track employees or applicants who have requested exemptions of various types, including exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, reports a conservative Christian lobby group.
While some rules are limited to vaccine exemptions, others follow all exemptions, such as an employee or claimant seeking accommodation to work on Sabbath or Sunday, reports Liberty Counsel Action, the legal organization’s lobbying arm. nonprofit specializing in religious freedom cases. Some rules even follow visitors to their buildings or events.
For example, the Treasury Department’s Office of Civil Rights and Diversity said its database would document all religious exemption requests and denials.
The office will “track and maintain” information about an applicant’s religious beliefs” as well as each person’s “informal dispute resolution,” the statement from Liberty Counsel Action reads.
“It will also record ‘correspondence’, ‘notes and supporting documents’ and even ‘recordings of oral conversations’, on each person who applies for an exemption. This database will track and record this level of information for everyone from “pre-employment, during current or previous employment or for [attendees at] a particular event.
Although there are variations in the rules from one government agency to another, the group warns that “all raise serious concerns about invasive privacy breaches by the federal government permanently recording and storing religious data. and medical on those requesting exemptions”.
The US military, for example, goes beyond recording the “religious preference” of its employees.
“The military combines this religious information with biometric data, such as fingerprints and digital photographs,” the watchdog reveals.
In a later statement, the advocacy organization points out that a new Department of Homeland Security rule allows it to track employees, contractors, subcontractors and some private employees based on religious accommodations.
“The database may include personal information, audio conversations and photos – and this information may be shared with any branch of our government and even with foreign countries,” the group claims.
Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., sent a letter signed by 10 Republican members of Congress to President Joe Biden, condemning his administration for maintaining a list of federal employees who requested a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The January 24 letter reads: “From day one, your administration has displayed a consistent attitude of contempt for Americans who prioritize faith in their lives.
“The majority of notices do not explain how long the agency plans to store the data, why the agency should share the data between federal agencies, or why the agency should retain the data beyond a decision of to grant or deny an employee’s religious accommodation request. Your administration has provided no valid justification for these intrusive databases which will only be used to target Americans who have refused a COVID-19 vaccine due of their religious beliefs.
Last month, the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank released a report saying it found at the time at least 19 federal agencies – including five cabinet-level agencies – that had created or offered an objector watch list. religious to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., introduced HR 6502, known as the “Religious Freedom Over Mandates Act,” which “would prohibit the use of federal funds for any religious accommodation registration system regarding any vaccination against COVID-19″. requirement.”
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, but the list of departments and agencies that track exemptions “has grown significantly since the bill was introduced,” according to Liberty Counsel Action.
“IBM has created a database of Jewish people in Europe,” Liberty Counsel Action president Mat Staver said in a statement. “Thanks to this database, the Nazis were able to identify the Jews and ban them from all public and then private employment. This database is what allowed the Nazis to round up people targeted for ghettos and concentration camps.
Staver maintains that the federal government has launched its own database.
“We cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “We cannot allow a federal database categorizing people by religion or medical status. What possible good can be accomplished by these government lists? I can’t think of one.
The Heritage Foundation comment cited a public comment by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who said he believed there was a “chilling effect on the exercise of religion by citizens due to the creation of this database”.
The First Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm based in Plano, Texas, released a statement in response to the Heritage Foundation report, calling the lists of objectors “alarming.”
“These policies could negatively impact the religious freedom of people of all faiths across the country. It is incredibly dangerous (indeed, dystopian) for the government to have a list of religious citizens at its disposal,” wrote Jorge Gomez of First Liberty. “Tyranny and repression are not far away when the state begins to actively hunt down the faithful. Religious freedom is greatly threatened once the state monitors religious citizens in order to get them to conform to the government-sanctioned viewpoint.