The Marine Corps is the first U.S. military branch to grant religious exemptions to the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, nearly two months after the vaccination deadline for active-duty Marines.
The Marines approved two requests for religious accommodation from the mandate, the branch said in a statement on Thursday.
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 the record “overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Navy’s religious accommodation process is an exercise in futility.”
While the ruling didn’t directly apply to the Marines, it likely triggered the military’s first religious exemption approvals, Sean Timmons, managing partner of Tully Rinckey’s Houston office, told The Epoch Times.
“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,” he added.
A Marines spokesman declined to share details of the approved exemptions, telling The Epoch Times that the branch was “hamstrung by privacy considerations.”
“All I confirm that we had two approved religious accommodations,” he said.
Requests for religious accommodations are “meticulously reviewed” by multiple superiors, the spokesman added in an emailed statement. If they all clear the request it reaches the deputy commandant who decides whether to approve or deny it.