Bill introduced to stop federal agencies from tracking religious information

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Sen. Roger Marshall has introduced a bill to prevent federal agencies from storing or sharing information about employees’ religious exemptions.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said on Wednesday, March 23, he led a group of colleagues to introduce the Act prohibiting religious exemptions and accommodation databases, that would prohibit federal agencies from sharing, disclosing, or disseminating information about a federal employee’s religious accommodation requests beyond what is necessary to process the request.

Marshall said the legislation follows the creation of registries at many federal agencies of religious exemption requests with respect to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees.

“As a nation founded on religious freedom, citizens should have confidence in their government’s handling of information about their religious beliefs and how it applies to their personal medical decisions,” Marshall said. “Instead, we have an administration that has pursued a coercive federal approach to mandatory vaccinations, including fear of retaliation for exercising this religious freedom. I am proud to lead legislation to ensure that federal agencies do not share and track private information of Americans in response to a request for religious accommodation or exemption, opening the door to cases of discrimination based on beliefs of individuals in the future.

Marshall said at least 19 federal agencies — including five cabinet-level agencies — have created or proposed on the Federal Register to create a list to track employee religious exception requests. He said the list includes the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Transportation.

“Religious freedom is one of the great cornerstones of our country, and it shouldn’t be necessary to legislate to rein in a White House administration too eager to register and track federal employees who seek religious exemptions. Unfortunately, we need legislation to stop the Biden administration from implementing this gross violation of individual rights by big government,” said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.)

According to Marshall, the agencies intend to collect religious affiliation, reasons and support for requests for religious accommodation, names, contact details, birth dates, aliases, home addresses, contact details and d other identifying information. He said the lists would be shared among federal agencies.

“It’s completely out of order for the Biden administration to catalog personal information about people’s religious beliefs,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “This bill will prevent the government from following the private medical decisions of Americans who seek religious accommodation or an exemption from a vaccination mandate.”

Marshall said the notices don’t explain how long the agencies plan to store the data, why they need to share it, or why they need to retain it beyond the decision to grant or deny the request.

“The Biden administration has taken the alarming step of tracking the religious beliefs of federal employees and instilling fear in Americans who oppose unconstitutional vaccine mandates. The Constitution guarantees the right to free exercise of religion, and Americans do not give up these rights simply because they are employed by the federal government. I am pleased to co-sponsor this bill to prevent President Biden from following the religious beliefs of federal employees, and I hope that all of my colleagues who want to protect the 1st Amendment will join us in supporting this bill,” said said Sen. Rick Scott (RS.C.).

The original co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Sens. Mike Braun (IN), Ted Cruz (TX), Steve Daines (MT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Jim Inhofe (OK), James Lankford (OK), Marco Rubio (FL), Rick Scott (FL) and Roger Wicker (MS).

“Just as vaccination mandates are unconstitutional and wrong, creating and sharing lists of religious exemption requests for the COVID vaccine violates our basic human rights,” Inhofe said. “I find it baffling that a number of agencies under the Biden administration are creating logs of Americans’ religious exemption requests and potentially leaking that information to other private agencies or organizations. That’s why I join Senator Marshall in introducing legislation to protect Americans’ religious accommodations from government tracking and sharing. Religious freedom is still a core American value, even as the Biden administration continues to ignore that fact,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.

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