Marines grant first religious exemptions in military for Covid-19 vaccine mandate

In its weekly Covid-19 update, the Marine Corps said it had received 3,350 requests for religious exemptions and processed 3,212 of them. But for the first time, the Marine Corps said it approved two of the requests. The Service did not provide any additional information on why these specific requests were granted.

Each service received several thousand requests for religious exemptions from the military vaccination mandate. But as of this week, none of those requests have been approved, even though the services still have many requests to process.

According to the latest updates, the Navy has received 3,038 requests for religious exemption, although the service does not say how many requests have been processed. The military has received 2,128 requests and rejected 162 requests so far. The Air Force received 2,387 and rejected 229.

Coming under pressure earlier this week about why the services were not granted any religious exemptions, the Pentagon’s press secretary, John Kirby, said the services were considering requests “in good faith.”

“We believe there should be a channel through which men and women in the workforce who believe they have legitimate religious exceptions can seek on their behalf,” Kirby said at a news briefing on Monday.

The vaccine mandate for the military, designed to ensure the readiness of the force, has become an open political issue.

Some Republican governors have refused to implement the mandate for National Guard units in their state, asserting that they have the power to deny the federal military mandate.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, one of the seven Republican governors who challenged the mandate, sued the Biden administration over the requirement, arguing that it was “unlawful” for the Pentagon to try to override its power over members of the state guard.
Although the governor is the commander-in-chief of a National Guard unit when not operating under federal orders, the Guard unit must still meet federal military readiness requirements, including medical requirements. In addition, the Pentagon pays for Guard units even when they operate under state orders, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has warned that unvaccinated Guard members will not be paid.
Abbott’s lawsuit came when a federal judge in Texas ruled last week against the Biden administration’s demand for a military vaccine in a decision that targeted how Navy policies dealt with those who sought religious exemptions from receiving the vaccine.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor has issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Navy from taking negative action against 35 Navy personnel who have sued in court because they are seeking exemption from the vaccine requirement on religious grounds. The order prevented the Navy from implementing policies that would allow these religious opponents to be deemed undeployable or ineligible for special operations.

The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) said it was still studying how to respond to the decision.

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