Written by Don Byrd
Legislation signed into law by Washington Governor Jay Inslee prohibits state personnel or agencies from disclosing information about a person’s religious affiliation to the federal government. House Bill 2097 also bars employers from requiring employees to disclose such information, and exempts from religious information from disclosure requirements under the Public Records Act.
The law bolsters individual privacy rights with regard to religious affiliation. At the same time, it seems designed to specifically protect religious minorities by curtailing the possibility of state participation in any federal religious registry. A report from the Woodward Patch includes a helpful quote from bill sponsor, state rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell):
“It is unfortunate that a culture of religious intolerance is brewing in our country. We must not be silent while whole communities are scapegoated due to their religious affiliation,” Stanford in a statement. “This measure will prevent our state from taking part in any federal religious registry, and I was glad to see bipartisan support for this effort to protect religious minorities.”
A national religious registry of course sounds far-fetched; it is surely and wholly un-American. But many advocates remain concerned that the Trump Administration – which has already attempted to institute an immigration ban from several majority Muslim countries – could attempt to realize then-candidate Trump’s campaign suggestion that religious profiling through a national database of Muslims in America should be considered.
States like Washington can’t be blamed for seeking to protect religious minorities from such a policy. You can read the bill here.