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MISSISSIPPI DELEGATION RAISES QUESTIONS CONCERNING DATABASES OF RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS FOR COVID-19 VACCINES

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith R-Miss., and U.S. Representatives Michael Guest, R-Miss., Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and Trent Kelly, R-Miss., yesterday evening sent a letter to the Office of Management & Budget concerning reports that the Biden Administration plans to create databases of Federal employees who have requested religious exemptions to President Biden’s vaccine mandate.

On Sept. 9, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order mandating vaccines for Federal employees with exemptions available for those with religious objections.  Many Federal agencies have taken steps to track federal employees who have requested religious exemptions to the vaccine, including the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Justice. 

“The effects of these databases could represent an unprecedented affront to individuals’ First Amendment rights and a troubling overreach by the federal government,” the Mississippi lawmakers wrote.

The letter raises questions about the purpose of these databases, with whom the information will be shared, the length of time the databases will be maintained, and the reason the lists can be disseminated among different agencies.

The full text of the letter can be found below or by clicking here.

We are writing to express our concern regarding the plans of certain departments and agencies within the Biden Administration to create databases of Federal employees who have requested religious exemptions to your COVID-19 vaccine mandate. We urge you to protect religious liberty and halt this effort.
As of today’s date, we understand that upwards of 19 Federal agencies have announced plans to maintain databases of their employees who have sought religious accommodations for your COVID-19 vaccine requirement for Federal employees. While we understand that these databases are not public facing, we are concerned that the Federal government is keeping this personally identifiable information and, in some cases, only for those Federal employees requesting exemptions to the vaccine mandate on religious grounds. The effects of these databases could represent an unprecedented affront to individuals’ First Amendment rights and a troubling overreach by the Federal government.

  1. 1.    Therefore, we request responses to the following questions:
  2. 2.    For what purposes do Federal agencies need the personal information of employees that seek religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine?
  3. 3.    How long do Federal agencies that track this personal information plan to maintain these records?
  4. 4.    With whom will the information be disseminated? And for what purposes will it be shared?
  5. 5.    Why will Federal agencies be allowed to circulate their lists between agencies?

We ask that you move quickly to address these issues and reverse the proposed databases. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

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