WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., today announced their support for legislation to prohibit federal agencies from sharing, disclosing or disseminating information concerning a religious accommodation request by a federal employee beyond the minimum necessary to process the request.
The Prohibiting Religious Exemption and Accommodations Databases Act (S.3902) was introduced in response to numerous federal agencies creating registries of religious exemption requests as they relate to President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees.
“I oppose the federal government creating databases of Americans who have sought religious accommodations. Government tracking of Americans based on their religious beliefs has disturbing implications to our First Amendment rights,” Wicker said. “It is vital Congress use its oversight abilities to ensure the federal government does not abuse its power or enable Americans to be targeted for exercising their rights to religious freedom.”
“Religious freedom is one of the great cornerstones of our country, and there shouldn’t be a need for legislation to rein in a White House administration that is too eager to register and track federal employees who request religious exemptions. Unfortunately, we do need legislation to keep the Biden administration from implementing this blatant big-government infringement on individual rights,” Hyde-Smith said.
Federal Register notices reveal that at least 19 federal agencies, including five cabinet-level agencies, have created or propose tracking lists for religious-exception requests from their employees. The agencies plan to collect religious affiliation, the reasons and support given for religious accommodation requests, names, contact information, date of birth, aliases, home address, contact information, and other identifying information—all of which would be shared among federal agencies.
U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D., R-Kan., introduced S.3902. In addition to Wicker and Hyde-Smith, cosponsors include Senators Mike Braun, R-Ind., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., James Lankford, R-Okla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla.
The full text of the Prohibiting Religious Exemption and Accommodations Databases Act can be found here.
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, and members of the Mississippi congressional delegation in February issued a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget requesting information on the creation of these databases of federal employees who sought religious exemptions.