The military has not approved a single religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine, even as more than 12,000 service members have sought one.
Every active-duty military member must be vaccinated, now that each branch's deadline has passed, unless the person has been granted or is awaiting a response on an exemption request.
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According to data released by each branch, 1,746 soldiers, 2,751 sailors, 4,756 airmen, and 3,144 Marines have asked specifically for religious exemptions. While none have been approved thus far, many have not yet been denied either.
Last month, a group of nearly three dozen Navy sailors, the majority of whom are Navy SEALs, filed a lawsuit seeking to get their religious exemption requests approved. The SEALs and sailors involved in the suit are either Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant.
The archbishop for military services addressed many of those concerns back in October when he encouraged Catholic service members to get the vaccine, though he also defended their religious freedom.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio said that it’s “morally permissible” to get the vaccine, even though the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested “using an abortion-derived cell line” and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “was developed, tested, and is produced, with abortion-derived cell lines,” because the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found that receiving the vaccine “‘does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion,’ and is therefore not sinful.”
Each of the service branches has begun issuing separations or reprimands for the military members who have refused the vaccine, though this represents a minuscule percentage of the overall force.
The Army, whose deadline was last and occurred this past Wednesday, announced that they relieved six active-duty leaders (including two battalion commanders) and issued 2,767 general officer written reprimands.
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Additionally, the Marine Corps discharged 103 Marines for refusing to get the vaccine while the Air Force announced earlier this week that 27 out of the roughly 5,000 active-duty airmen and guardians who refused the vaccine were discharged for failure to obey a lawful order.
Roughly 40,000 active-duty service members violated Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s order, according to the Washington Post. The number amounts to around 3% of the total active-duty force, which is approximately 1.3 million people.