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No Religious Registry in California

DEEPLINKS BLOG
September 26, 2017

EFF sent California Gov. Jerry Brown a letter urging him to sign S.B. 31. This bill, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, would prevent state and local government in California from assisting the federal government in creating a registry based on religious belief, national origin, or ethnicity.

All too often, governments use databases against people, especially vulnerable minorities. Sometimes that is the point of a database. Other times governments create a database for a benevolent purpose, and later use it for a harmful purpose. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau collaborated with Japanese internment by sharing with military officials its supposedly confidential data about the names and addresses of Japanese Americans. EFF opposes such misuse of government databases.

During the 2016 election campaign, Pres. Donald Trump called for a Muslim registry. Such a database would be illegitimate and illegal at its inception. Also, the Trump administration reportedly has considered the reinstatement of the infamous Bush-era NSEERS database of Muslim immigrants. Civil rights advocates oppose this registry.

S.B. 31 would prevent the federal government from mining state and local databases in California to build a registry based on religion, national origin or ethnicity. State and local agencies would be prohibited from helping to create such a registry, and from making their databases available for such a registry. In addition, state and local police agencies would be barred from collecting information about religious belief (with narrow exceptions for criminal investigations and religious accommodations), and from enforcing any federal registration requirements.

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