The Marine Corps announced that it has granted two religious accommodations for Marines refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine as conscientious objectors. These are the only two religious accommodations any branch of the military has granted so far. These waivers come in the midst of at least two class-action lawsuits brought by service members who claim that the military system for granting such waivers is a charade and offered in bad faith.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction that stopped the military from taking any adverse action against servicemembers for refusal to take the vaccine. The judge slammed the Navy for offering a process for requesting a religious accommodation that actually prepares the formal denial within the first five steps of a fifty-step process. The judge also pointed to the fact that not a single waiver had been granted among the thousands that had been received.
This blanket denial of waivers extended to the other services as well, until the Marine Corps granted these first two requests for religious accommodation. These two waivers also represent the first two accommodation requests granted by the Marine Corps for any reason in the last ten years. To date, the Marine Corps has received 3,350 waiver requests for the COVID-19 vaccine and has processed a 3,212. More than 200 Marines who’ve had their requests denied have been discharged.
Across all the service branches there may be as many as 13,000 service members who have applied for religious exemptions with most denied while a small number remain in review status.