Religious information to be protected

Washington residents cannot be asked about religious affiliation

— Disclosing someone’s religious affiliation to the federal government constitutes an unfair practice and a violation of state discrimination laws, as a result of legislation passed Tuesday, Feb. 27, by the Legislature.

House Bill 2097, sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, provides the same protections against religious discrimination as contained in companion legislation in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby.

“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,” said Stanford. “This measure will prevent our state from taking part in any federal religious registry, and I am glad to see bipartisan support for this effort to protect religious minorities.”

The legislation:

 - Prohibits employers from requiring disclosure of an employee's religious affiliation;

 - Prohibits public agencies and personnel from using agency resources to disclose an individual's religious affiliation to the federal government or to compile information regarding individual religious beliefs, national origin or ethnicity for immigration or law enforcement purposes;

 - Restricts local and state law enforcement agencies from collecting or using information about an individual's religious affiliation, with limited exceptions; and

 - Exempts personal information about an individual's religious affiliation from disclosure under the state Public Records Act.

“No one should have their religion used against them, whether through prejudice or through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” Palumbo said. “Religion is a choice and a right, not a tool for incarcerating law-abiding people.”

Having passed both the House and Senate, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.


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