First known armed services granted religious exemption for COVID vaccine



The Marines have approved two requests for service members who are refusing a COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons, marking what is believed to be the first religious exemption granted above all. armed services – among thousands of requests.

The Pentagon has maintained that services will consider religious reasons to refuse a legally mandated COVID-19 vaccine order, but so far, none of the requests are believed to have been approved. Most members of the service are fully vaccinated, but some are still applying for a waiver.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin authorized a COVID-19 vaccine in September but allowed the services to set their own deadlines and plans for handling waiver requests.

According to updates released this week from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, there have been a total of more than 13,000 requests for religious exemptions. The Air Force, the agency with the first vaccine deadline, has denied 2,387 requests for religious exemptions and has 2,158 pending.

The religion of the two Marines exempted from the Marines is not known. A spokesperson for the Marine Corps said the service was unable to provide further details for privacy reasons.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary order against the COVID-19 mandate for Navy SEALs seeking religious accommodation. Twenty-nine of the 35 SEALs represented in the lawsuit went through the Navy’s process for religious immunity and were denied, according to the lawsuit. Now, they’re suing over the denials.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week that the Defense Department is aware of the lawsuit and is working with the Justice Department on how to handle it.

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