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At least 25 federal agencies are setting up databases to track federal employees who seek religious exemptions from COVID vaccine mandates.
The databases are tracking the name, contact information, date of birth, religious affiliation and reason for seeking the exemption.
The notices do not explain why the databases are being created, how long the information will be kept or how the information will be used. The lists will be shared among the agencies.
The Federal Register announcements are the only public notices of the databases.
The Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, on Jan. 11 reported on the Federal Register notice published that day by the Pretrial Services Agency, which gathers information on recently arrested defendants for District of Columbia courts.
The Heritage Foundation followed up with its own review and found the Pretrial Services Agency notice to be one of 19 similar notices from federal agencies.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury appears to have made the first announcement submitting its notice on Oct. 26, 2021.
Most of the notices do not specify the databases are for COVID vaccine religious exemptions, but some do.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in its Nov. 18, 2021 notice stated:
“In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) intends to establish a new system of records titled Employee Accommodations Files. This system allows DOT to collect, use, maintain, and disseminate the records needed to process, manage, maintain, and resolve reasonable accommodation requests from employees or applicants for employment based on a medical condition/disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. This includes requests for a medical or religious accommodation to decline the COVID-19 vaccination. The information will be used to determine whether accommodations are legally required in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt submitted a public comment in response to the DOT public notice and called on the Biden administration to “immediately dismantle the Orwellian database.”
Schmitt said there is little transparency in these announcements, which leaves little ability for the public to weigh in on such databases.
Schmitt wrote in his submission to regulations.gov:
“We should not forget that tyrants throughout history often justify the taking of liberty under the guise of safety. The current attempt by the federal government to collect, maintain and share information on its own citizens concerning their most personal and deeply-held religious beliefs under the guise of promoting health and safety is wrong and, given our history of religious liberty and tolerance, is decidedly un-American. As the chief legal official for the citizens of the State of Missouri, I object to the creation of this Database in the strongest possible terms and demand that you rescind this dystopian mandate immediately.”
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, was not surprised the databases are being created. He told Fox News:
“It’s not surprising that the government is keeping a record of religious exemptions. The government does have to track its workforce … Religious exemptions are based on the most personal and profound parts of people’s lives. They invoke these exemptions because they feel they cannot take this vaccine.”
Wesley J. Smith, chair and senior fellow for the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, argued the databases are a violation of privacy that offers “great potential” for abuse in coercing federal employees to submit to the jab for fear of losing their jobs.
Smith said in a Fox News interview:
“Well, it looks like Joe Biden’s making a list, checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s religious and nice. It’s really an obnoxious and outrageous chilling of free expression of religion because it seems to me that the point of keeping these records would be to first keep people from seeking a religious exemption and second, perhaps punish those who do.”
The databases represent a “broader attack on religious freedom,” Smith said, much like religious members of the U.S. Armed Forces believe is happening with military vaccine mandates.
Some fear the databases will allow the federal government to remove religious employees from the government due to their beliefs. In December, several U.S. Marines told the New York Post there is a “purge” of religious members going on in the military through the vaccine mandate.
The Epoch Times reported the U.S. Marine Corps announced it removed 45 active duty members for refusing to get the vaccine, bringing the total to 334 Marines who have been booted. The U.S. Air Force removed 100, the U.S. Navy 20 and U.S. Army six.
The military had not approved a single religious exemption request until just recently. On Jan. 13, the Marines granted the first two exemptions. Those two exemptions are among 3,350 religious exemption requests submitted to the Marines, of which 3,212 have been processed.
The Navy received 3,038 requests for religious exemptions but provided no information on how many it has processed. The Air Force received 2,387 requests, with 229 already rejected, and the Army received 2,128 requests, with 162 rejected.
Asked if the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is acting in “good faith” based on the lack of exemptions approved, Pentagon Press Sec. John Kirby said at a Jan. 10 press conference:
“Does DOD still believe in the value of a religious exemption process for this or any other vaccine? The answer is yes, we do. We believe that there should be a channel, a vehicle, in which men and women of the workforce who believe they have a legitimate religious exemption to seek on their behalf that they have a process to make that request and to have that request treated seriously.”