Posted by on January 13, 2022 4:08 pm
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Marines grant two religious exemptions, marking first across military branches

Rambo Islas, 8 months, is held by his mother Maria Islas, as he gets a shot for a vaccine administered by RN, Nicole Ives at the Dallas County Health & Human Services immunization clinic in Dallas on Friday, March 8, 2019. (Vernon Bryant/AP)

Marines grant two religious exemptions, marking first across military branches

Mike Brest January 13, 03:51 PMJanuary 13, 03:54 PM

The Marines have granted two religious exemptions for the coronavirus vaccine, making it the first service branch to do so despite more than 13,000 requests across the military.

The service branch announced the two approved exemptions on Thursday in its weekly update, in which it also upped the number of active-duty Marines discharged for refusing the vaccine from 251 to 351.

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NAVY AND MARINES MOVE FORWARD WITH DISCHARGES OVER CORONAVIRUS VACCINE REFUSALS

The Marines did not specify what religion the service members practice or why these individuals were granted an exemption while others were rejected.

To date, 3,350 Marines have requested religious accommodations, but 3,212 have been processed and denied. The rest are still in the evaluation process. Despite thousands of requests, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have not granted any religious exemptions.

The Air Force has had more than 4,500 religious exemption requests, with 2,387 being disapproved. There are more than 2,100 pending requests and 148 pending appeals.

The Navy received 3,038 requests for a religious exemption from active-duty sailors, and none have been approved. The Army received 2,128 requests, but 162 have been disapproved and none have been approved.

Each of the service branches is around or above 95% fully vaccinated for their active-duty forces, demonstrating that an overwhelming percentage have complied with Secretary Lloyd Austin’s mandate from August. Despite the high vaccination rates, there has been notable pushback on the mandate.

Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of roughly three dozen Navy SEALs who filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense over the vaccine mandate. The service members argued their sincerely held religious beliefs, which they say prevent them from getting the coronavirus vaccine, were not legitimately considered before being rejected.

During Thursday’s press briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to outline DOD’s next steps related to the judge’s decision.

“If the Department of Defense is going to make medical and administrative exemptions available, they also have to make religious exemptions available. And the religious exemptions cannot be a complete sham process as they have been here with the COVID vaccine,” Mike Berry, a lawyer with the First Liberty Institute representing the SEALs, previously told the Washington Examiner.

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A group of Republican lawmakers has also criticized DOD’s vaccination mandate as it relates to the National Guard, arguing the order is unconstitutional because of the authority structure of the guard. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt filed lawsuits on the matter, though the latter case was rejected.

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Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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