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Marines become first military branch to get religious exemptions

The Pentagon has finally begun to grant religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The U.S. Marines approved several requests in the last week.

The news comes as the Armed Services have begun discharging servicemembers for refusing to get the jab which still has only emergency approval.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the mandate in August 2021, but every branch had resisted granting religious accommodations, sparking lawsuits and allegations that the military was violating federal law by discriminating against religious troops. The lack of approvals prompted a federal judge earlier this month to block the mandate for a group of Navy personnel, with the judge finding THAT the record “overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Navy’s religious accommodation process is an exercise in futility.”

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Although the ruling didn’t directly apply to the Marines, it likely triggered the military’s first religious exemption approval attorney Sean Timmons said

“I think the Marines saw the opinion, saw them get just completely get ripped a new one, admonished, reprimanded judicially and they saw that, now they’re reacting to it; they’re trying to correct it after the fact,” he said. “They’re basically a bank robber who robbed the bank trying to return the money. ‘I’m not a bank robber. I’m just borrowing money.’ It’s laughable, comical.”

Requests for religious accommodations are “meticulously reviewed” by multiple superiors, a Marine spokesman said. If they all clear the request, it reaches the deputy commandant who decides whether to approve or deny it. Although the Marines are the first branch to approve religious exemptions, the pair who were cleared are a small fraction of the 3,350 religious exemption requests received. More than 3,200 have been rejected. No other military branch has granted any religious exemptions yet, according to data published last week and answers from spokespersons for the branches.

The Navy has received more than 3,700 requests for religious accommodation from the mandate and approved zero. The Army has not approved any of the more than 2,100 religious exemption requests. The Air Force has rejected more than requests.