On October 15, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that will prevent state and local agencies and employees from disclosing information about a person’s religious beliefs to the federal government for use in creating a database for law enforcement or religious purposes.
While the “California Religious Freedom Act” (SB 31) (text here) does not identify any particular religion, bill author state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) intended the bill to combat Islamophobia at the federal level. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Lara cited statements made by presidential candidate Trump that there “should be a lot of systems” to track Muslims in the United States.Trump supporters had referred to Japanese Internment camps during World War II as providing legal precedent for a registry of Muslims. Upon taking office, Trump implemented a ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
SB 31 passed with extensive bipartisan support, by a margin of 76 to 2 in the Assembly and 36 to 0 in the Senate. The bill will prevent the state from participating in any federal registries involving any religious group based on affiliation or practices. However, the bill will not prevent state or local agencies from disclosing information to provide religious accommodations or during “a targeted investigation of an individual based on reasonable suspicion that he or she has engaged in criminal activity.”