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Marine Corps hasn’t approved any religious vaccine exemption requests of 2,400+ it received

U.S. Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force receive COVID-19 vaccines at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 12, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francesca Landis)
November 30, 2021

The U.S. Marine Corps has received more than 2,400 requests for a religious exemption to the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and it hasn’t approved any of them.

On Monday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Marine Corps received a total of 2,441 requests for religious exemptions to the vaccine mandates, of which they have processed 1,902 requests and approved none. This is the first time the service has provided specific figures on the number of members who had requested religious waivers since the various military branches began moving towards a vaccine mandate in August.

The Marine Corps’ non-existent approval rate for religious exemption requests comes as the service’s vaccination deadline passed on Sunday, Nov. 28.

The Marine Corps has also received vaccination exemption requests on medical and administrative grounds. The service has granted temporary medical and administrative exemptions to more than 700 Marines and 14 permanent exemptions for medical and administrative reasons.

About 95 percent of the Marine Corps’ active-duty members have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the lowest vaccination rate of any of the U.S. military branches.

If the remaining five percent — around 11,000 — of active Marines continue to refuse the vaccine altogether and could be kicked out of the service. As of Nov. 24, the Marine Corps has another 10,980 partially vaccinated troops, who also face separation if they don’t eventually become fully vaccinated.

Marine Times reported on Nov. 18, only about 75 percent of the Marine Corps Reserve has been recorded as partially or fully vaccinated, though they have until Dec. 28 to be fully vaccinated.

To date, 75 U.S. military service members have died from COVID-19-related illness, out of a total of 253,989 COVID-19 cases among service members since the start of the pandemic — a military-wide case fatality rate of .029 percent. By comparison, the U.S. has recorded more than 48.1 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, and over 777,000 deaths, for a nationwide case fatality rate of about 1.6 percent. The U.S. nationwide case fatality rate from COVID-19 is about 55.7 times that of the fatality rate among U.S. military service members alone.

The Marine Corps is not the only service to have denied every single religious exemption request it has processed so far. Earlier this month, USNI News reported that the U.S. Navy has not approved a single religious exemption request. Department of the Air Force, which oversees both the U.S. Air Force and the new U.S. Space Force has also denied every religious exemption request it has processed so far. An internal memo obtained by the religious liberty organization, First Liberty Institute, in September, revealed U.S. Coast Guard officials coordinating lines of questioning for chaplains to use to more easily dismiss religious waiver requests as “a ruse to avoid the vaccine.”