Agencies compile lists of federal employees seeking religious exemptions from vaccination mandate
Many entries began to appear in the Federal Register with notices from federal agencies outlining new databases they are creating to compile lists of federal employees who are requesting exemptions from President Biden’s federal employee vaccination mandate for religious reasons.
Forensic Services and Offender Supervision Agency
Some Federal Register notices are clearer and simpler. the opinion of the Agency for Justice and Supervision of Offenders explains that he is creating the “Employee Religious Exception Request Information System” for the District of Columbia’s Pretrial Services Agency.
The notice explains:
This records system retains personal religious information collected in response to religious accommodation requests for a religious exception to the federally mandated vaccination requirement in the context of a public health emergency or health incident and similar security event, such as a pandemic, epidemic, natural disaster or national disaster. or regional emergency; and/or any other lawful collection of employee information or data necessary to ensure a safe and healthy environment for individuals who occupy PSA facilities, attend PSA-sponsored events, or otherwise engage in official business at name of the agency. The records system will assist the Agency in collecting, storing, disseminating and disposing of information about employees’ religious exemption requests collected and maintained by the Agency as noted above.
This new database of religious information for federal employees “will be effective upon publication [of the Federal Register notice](which was January 11, 2022), but the public can submit comments on it until February 10, 2022.
Department of Transportation “Employee Accommodation Records”
Other reviews weren’t as clear as to what was done or why. For example, the The Department of Transportation has issued a notice on Nov. 18, 2021, who said she was creating a new records system called “Employee Accommodation Records.”
According to the notice:
This system enables DOT to collect, use, maintain, and disseminate records necessary to process, manage, maintain, and resolve reasonable accommodation requests from employees or applicants for employment due to a medical condition. / a disability or a sincere religious belief, practice or practice. or compliance. This includes requests for medical or religious accommodation to refuse the COVID-19 vaccination. (emphasis added) The information will be used to determine if accommodations are legally required under the Rehabilitation Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Some additional details about the database are provided much later in the advisory, and vaccine exemptions are specifically listed as the reason for having it:
This system will collect information relating to people requesting medical/disability and religious accommodations. These accommodation requests include, but are not limited to, vaccine exemption requests. (emphasis added) By requesting an accommodation, individuals authorize DOT to collect and maintain a record of the information submitted in support of the accommodation request. Information in this records system will be collected directly from individual employees or applicants for federal employment who have requested accommodations. This new system will be included in the DOT’s inventory of recording systems.
The stated purpose of this new database will be to “collect information from individuals seeking medical/disability and/or religious accommodations in order to approve or deny their requests.” It will cover “current DOT employees and applicants for federal employment who have requested medical/disability and/or religious accommodations.”
Among the data about its employees that the DOT will collect is “the name of the person seeking accommodation, the nature of the accommodation sought, including but not limited to religious accommodations, how to comply with such requirement would impede religious exercise, how long the belief has been held and the reason for requesting the exemption.
The data will be considered unclassified and stored in a third-party cloud environment in accordance with the notice.
the DOT advisory comment window closed on December 20, 2021, and there was only one comment. The notice apparently caught the attention of the Missouri Attorney General who submitted a letter to the agency expressing his opposition to the proposal.
Eric Schmitt wrote in his letter:
The chilling effect on a citizen’s exercise of religion due to the creation of this database is alarming. First, the federal government decrees that a citizen who requests a medical waiver of a waiver based on sincere religious belief has automatically consented to be listed in the database. To put it plainly, invoking the legal right to exercise one’s religious faith simultaneously risks giving up that same legal right.
Other agencies compiling similar databases
Other agencies have posted similar notices in the Federal Register recently. It is not known how many there are in total, but a recent report suggests there are as many as 19. Among these agencies are the justice department, Department of Health and Social Services, Selective Service System, General Services Administration and Treasury Department.
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