The Vault Project
Nineteen federal agencies have created or proposed creating tracking lists for people who request religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine mandates imposed by the Biden administration, raising concerns over privacy, what the administration plans to do with the information, how it will be shared and how it could be used to discriminate against individuals for their political or religious beliefs. The federal government, through the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) has announced it will begin tracking all federal employees who file for religious exemptions effective Feb. 10, 2022. According to the Federal Register, CSOSA will create a database called the “Employee Religious Exception Request Information System,” to collect religious accommodation requests. This newly established system will be included in the Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) for the District of Columbia Privacy Act system of records. According to the Heritage Foundation, there are at least 19 federal agencies — including five cabinet-level agencies — that have created or proposed creating tracking lists for religious-exemption requests for their employees. The list includes the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Treasury. Several notices, published in the Federal Register, claim they are being issued to implement Biden’s COVID-19 executive order on federal government employees. The rest have used the Privacy Act of 1974—which “establishes a code of information practices that govern the collection, maintenance use and dissemination of information about individuals stored by federal agencies”— as the justification for creating a list. The agencies plan to collect the following data: name of the individual seeking accommodation, religious affiliation, reason for requesting an accommodation, how long the religious belief has been held, information concerning religious affiliation, the nature of the sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance, the need for accommodation, any appropriate documentation, details of the accommodation requests, how complying with the mandate would burden religious exercise, names, contact information, date of birth, aliases, home address, gender, contact information, pay grade or band, business associates, supervisor information and other identifying information. The information collected will be shared with other federal agencies. The notices published in the Federal Register do not explain how long the data will be stored, why it is needed, why it will be shared between agencies and why an employee’s information needs to be kept beyond the decision to grant or deny an employee’s religious accommodation request.