Sarah Perry and GianCarlo Canaparo of the Heritage Foundation on Jan 12, 2022, reported our Federal Government, specifically the Biden Administration has been collecting religious exemptions filed by federal employees across at least 19 federal agencies.
The Departments of Transportation, Justice, the Treasury, and Health and Human Services just to name a few have been secretly obtaining the religious exemptions of its employees.
It appears that many agencies are not just collecting the exemptions, but also consolidating them while preserving personal information.
First noticed in October 2021, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt is demanding answers from the Biden Administration in hopes that others will inquire as well.
The federal agencies announced their intentions using the Federal Register, with a very small following by the public, thus none of the announcements attracted public comment.
I personally scan the Federal Register on a weekly basis, using key word searches for petitions filed in the NVICP or proposed rule changes to the program. Anyone examining the daily amount of listings in Federal Register must be prepare to review several thousand pages. Just not going to happen.
Yet, the Missouri AG was paying attention. He even submitted his comment back in November by stating that the Department of Transportation did not wait for public comment on the matter. Instead, the DOT announcement became effective the day of it was announced.
But why are these agencies creating these lists? It does appear these actions were done to comply with President Biden’s COVID-19 Executive Order on federal employees.
There are over 4 million federal employees, military and civilian. And they have filed over tens of thousands of religious exemptions.
Now what will these agencies do with this information? It is highly probable that a collection of the exemptions includes names, addresses, reasons for the religious exemption filing, date of birth, etc.
Ok, it is acceptable that as a federal employee, your employer would retain certain information on the employee. But to collect it in aggregate form with thousands of other employees within the same federal agency reeks of privacy violations. But the administrative rules that are now in effect will allow the agencies to combine into one database or shared amongst many federal agencies clearly violates the Privacy Act of 1974. That Act established rules on what information can be stored and shared within an agency.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling that President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on large employers might have made some of this mute, the federal agencies did in fact collect the data and are cross sharing it with other agencies.
The fall out of the Supreme Court ruling to allow the mandate to remain in force for health care workers is still very troubling on so many angles. Many of the health care workers are federal employees and their data will be continue to be collected.
But if the federal government is doing this, are there state governments engaged in this practice as well? Let’s start asking and demand those answers.
I recall President Biden’s Inauguration Speech promising his Administration will be the most transparent. Heard that before. President Obama in 2008. And soon after, FOIA requests to government agencies became extremely difficult.
Now this plus many other examples from the last year. Not to be surprised, President Trump’s pledge on transparency fell short as well.
The take away, the message to all of us. We must be vigilant. Not just of our local and state governments, but our federal government as well. They all cannot be trusted.
Keep learning, keep challenging yourself and always, always question authority.
Wayne Rohde is the author of two books, The Vaccine Court and The Vaccine Court 2.0, plus the host of The Right on Point podcast.