If the U.S. military’s top brass held out hope for the rank-and-file members of the various services that they would seriously consider religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine, they were misleading the troops because thus far, none of the thousands of service personnel who have applied for one have gotten it.
The Associated Press reported on Sunday:
More than 12,000 military service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are seeking religious exemptions, and so far they are having zero success.
That total lack of approvals is creating new tensions within the military.
The services, urgently trying to keep the coronavirus pandemic in check by getting troops vaccinated, are now besieged with exemption requests they are unlikely to approve. Meanwhile, troops claiming religious reasons for avoiding the shots are perplexed because exemptions are theoretically available, yet seem impossible to obtain.
Chaplains are being caught in the middle of this back-and-forth; while they are there to serve the religious needs of military personnel they also have an obligation to lay out the land, so to speak. Plus, as The AP reported, getting a religious exemption is a “complicated process that may well be futile” given that the Biden Defense Department appears to have made up its mind that troops are either going to get the jab or they’re going to be separated from the military.
“So many of them come in thinking that I make the decision, and if they make this case, that it’s a done deal,” said Maj. A’Shellarien Lang, an Army chaplain for the National Guard. “I don’t make the decision. And so when they find that out, it’s a kind of game-changer in the sense that they know that the process has to continue.”
The AP adds: “Obtaining a religious exemption is rooted in a process that predates the pandemic and has been used for decisions such as whether troops on duty can wear head coverings or beards for religious reasons.
“In addition to discussions with chaplains to determine whether they have a “sincerely held belief,” troops must meet with commanders and medical personnel. The final decision is made higher up the chain of command and is also based on whether the person’s vaccine exemption will pose a risk to mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, the health and safety of the force, and military readiness,” the newswire added.
But about that military readiness angle, the service branches are already moving to separate thousands of personnel due to their refusal to take the vaccine (and the Pentagon’s unwillingness, apparently, to grant any sort of exemption).
The Daily Mail, in a joint report with the AP, noted that “Navy officials have begun terminating the 5,731 active-duty sailors, or 2 percent of its active branch,” while “the Army announced it is prepared to ax 3,800 unvaccinated soldiers beginning in January and after the Air Force has already discharged 27 service members who refused the vaccine order.”
And while these numbers don’t seem to be very high, understand that the military does not ‘overstaff,’ so every position is vital. The service branches are each authorized a specific manpower level every year via the National Defense Authorization Act, and the branches are generally loathe to request more personnel because they’d rather spend the money on equipment and maintenance. So again, every position lost is vital, and it puts the onus back on recruiters who already are having a tough time meeting their annual quotas.
Here’s something else to think about: A reduction in vital personnel means a reduction in readiness, and this is coming at a time when Russia is threatening Ukraine and China is making threatening moves towards Taiwan.
Biden has literally put our country’s national security at risk with this vaccine mandate, and for no good reason, given that the vast majority of our forces are in great health and therefore are at virtually no risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID.