Agency to track those seeking religious exemptions to vaccination mandate

By BETHANY BLANKLEY

THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR

(The Center Square) — A shadowy US government agency, whose stated mission is to reduce recidivism and work with criminal justice partners to improve public safety, will begin tracking all federal employees who claim religious exemptions to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate on federal workers and contractors.

Religious rights groups question whether the tracking plan will be used to discriminate against federal employees and religious contractors.

“The feds don’t have to create a database of people filing religious exemptions,” Liberty Counsel founder and president Mat Staver told The Center Square.

Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit religious freedom legal aid organization, the state of Florida and other groups sued the Biden administration after the president issued an executive order Sept. 9 that all federal employees and contractors receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment and/or contracting with the federal government for services.

After close. Biden’s executive order has been issued, the Federal Workforce Security Task Force has issued guidance to federal agencies on how and when to grant religious or medical exemptions, which must be reasonably accommodated by law. He also provided guidance to agencies on how to track documents related to religious exemption requests.

Now, the federal government, through the District of Columbia Forensic Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), will oversee requests for religious accommodation for all federal workers and contractors subject to Pres. Biden’s tenure. The CSOSA is part of the executive branch.

Formed in 1997, the CSOSA “assumed the adult probation function of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the parole supervision function of the District of Columbia Board of Parole (which was disbanded).”

An independent entity within the CSOSA that oversees pretrial defendants, the District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency, will now oversee the new “Employee Religious Exception Claims Information System,” according to a public notice filed in the Federal Register.

The PSA will process religious accommodation requests and store information about each federal employee, volunteer, intern, contractor and consultant who falls within the mandate and requests a religious exemption.

“The primary purpose of the Secure Electronic File Repository is to collect, maintain, use and – to the extent appropriate and necessary – disseminate information about employee religious exception requests collected by the agency in the part of the federally mandated COVID-19 vaccination requirement,” the notice reads. And the PSA will use a secure electronic file repository “to record, track and manage employee religious exception request information while leveraging technology to protect and secure the confidentiality of records maintained in the system.”

Records may include an employee’s religious affiliation, date of birth, job title, home address, age, place of employment, and copies of their accommodation requests and notes and decisions regarding them. , according to the opinion.

Unless Pres. Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate is overturned by the courts, or the CSOSA’s proposed rule is halted by a judge, the new tracking system is expected to begin Feb. 10.

Unlike other federal agencies’ public comment periods, which often last months, CSOSA’s last 28 days. The Federal Register states that “the new system will be effective upon publication. New or modified common uses will be effective February 10, 2022.”

But a federal agency that oversees parolees and works with criminal justice partners now tasked with tracking religious exemptions is raising red flags for those who have fought against an administration that hasn’t been open to those seeking relief. religious exemptions. In one trial difficult Pres. Biden’s vaccine mandate on members of the US military, a number of Navy SEALS claim to have requested religious exemptions, but have been flatly denied. They allege that their requests were not taken seriously enough.

Liberty Counsel argues that CSOSA’s tracking plan serves no legitimate or legal purpose and could be misused to discriminate against people of faith.

“The only possible purpose this could have is to first identify and then discriminate against people of faith. Knowing who is asking for religious exemptions serves no legitimate or legal purpose,” Mr. Staver told The Center Square. “A federal agency compiling a database of people who take their [faith] seriously sets a bad precedent, not surprisingly with the Biden administration which has been hostile to religious liberty.

CSOSA’s requests for comment were not immediately returned.

Three years after its creation, the CSOSA was certified as a federal executive agency in 2000 by former United States Attorney General Janet Reno. According to its website, the agency’s scope does not appear to include enforcing the vaccination mandate or monitoring religious exemptions.

Its stated mission is to “effectively supervise adults under our jurisdiction to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, support the fair administration of justice, and promote accountability, inclusion, and success through the implementation of practices based on evidence in close collaboration with our criminal justice partners. and the community.

Its stated goals are to “reduce recidivism by targeting criminogenic risk and need using innovative, evidence-based strategies; integrating offenders into the community by connecting them to resources and interventions; strengthen and promote accountability by ensuring offender compliance and cultivating a culture of continuous measurement and improvement; and support the fair administration of justice by providing timely and accurate information to criminal justice decision makers.

As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday against Pres. Biden’s private sector employer vaccine mandate, he has yet to accept mandate challenges from federal workers. Lawsuits against the warrant continue in their respective jurisdictions.

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