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California Governor Signs Bill to Defend Against Religious Registries

On the last day to act on legislation in 2017, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill creating a firewall between the state's data and any attempt by the federal government to create lists, registries, or databases based on a person's religion, nationality, or ethnicity. 

S.B. 31 was one of the earliest bills introduced by the legislature to oppose discriminatory policies floated by Pres. Donald Trump and his surrogates during the 2016 campaign. S.B. 31, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, was a direct response to Trump's and his surrogates' support of a so-called "Muslim Registry." Although the bill places California at odds with the White House, both parties in the California Senate unanimously approved the bill, as did an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Assembly. 

The bill prohibits state and local government officials from sharing personal data with the federal government for the purposes of creating these kinds of registries or using government resources to support law enforcement or immigration enforcement activities based on religious beliefs, practices, or affiliations, or national origin or ethnicity. Police authorities are also prohibited from investigating or enforcing a requirement to register with such a registry.  

In addition, the legislation would prohibit the state and local law enforcement agencies from collecting information on a person's religious beliefs or practices, except in two narrow situation: when there is a "clear nexus" between criminal activity and the religious information, or when there is a need to provide religious accommodations (e.g. providing Kosher or Halal food in a detention setting). 

With S.B. 31, Californians have ensured that the state does not repeat the mistakes of the last century, when the U.S. Census Bureau shared confidential data with the military for the purposes of interning Japanese Americans during World War II. 

We are grateful to Sen. Lara for championing this important legislation, Gov. Brown for signing it, and to the 700 EFF supporters who emailed their legislators to defend our data from being used to persecute our communities. 

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