Two Marines will be exempt from the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate because of their religious beliefs, the Marine Corps said Thursday, making it the first service to grant such waivers on the basis of religion.
In its weekly report on vaccination rates, the service announced that of the more than 3,200 religious waiver applications processed so far, two have been approved. The two Marines were not identified.
The announcement is noteworthy because each military service has received thousands of religious waiver applications from troops looking to avoid the shot, but until Thursday, none had been approved.
Thousands of applications across the services have been denied, while thousands more are still being evaluated.
In its statement, the Marine Corps stressed that it is pushing all troops to get vaccinated.
“The Marine Corps recognizes COVID-19 as a readiness issue. The speed with which the disease transmits among individuals has increased risk to our Marines and the Marine Corps’ mission,” the Marine Corps said in its report. “We are confident the vaccine protects our Marines, our communities, and the nation.”
At least 351 Marines so far have been kicked out for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. Other services also are separating service members who won’t get the shot and have not been granted an exemption.
The issue of religious exemptions is at the forefront of the military’s push to get the entire U.S. fighting force vaccinated.
The issue already has found its way to the courtroom. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas sided with nearly three dozen Navy SEALs seeking religious waivers from the vaccine and blocked the Navy from punishing those troops.
Other fights against the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate are playing out at the state level.
At least a half-dozen Republican governors argue their state’s National Guard troops should be exempt from the directive because the troops remain under state control until activated for federal duty.
Health, The New York Today