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Army hasn’t approved any of the 2,128 religious vaccine exemptions requested

U.S. Soldiers with 1-137th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade stand in formation. (Capt. Travis Mueller/U.S. Army)
January 13, 2022

As of this week, the U.S. Army has received 2,128 religious exemption requests for the military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but it has only processed 162 of those requests and has denied every single one so far.

The Army revealed its lack of approved religious exemptions, along with its other service-wide COVID-19 response statistics in a press release provided to American Military News late Wednesday. The service also said that no soldiers have been kicked out of the Army for vaccine refusal so far.

The lack of approved religious exemptions in the Army continues a trend seen across the entire U.S. military, as the various other military branches have also denied every religious exemption request processed. The U.S. Air Force has received more than 4,900 religious exemption requests, with none approved. The U.S. Marine Corps received more than 3,200 religious exemptions requests, again with none approved.

The U.S. Navy has received another 3,009 religious exemption requests and has approved none. Earlier this month, however, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to 35 Naval Special Warfare service members who sued the military and President Joe Biden over the vaccine mandate. In his decision, Judge Reed O’Connor wrote that the service member’s religious objections to the vaccine are “undisputedly sincere.” In many cases, the plaintiffs’ commanding officers also recommended their religious accommodation requests be approved, yet none had been approved and 29 out of 35 were outright rejected. O’Connor said the Navy “merely rubber stamps each denial” to a religious accommodation request.

In September, leaked documents revealed attorneys for the U.S. Coast Guard had coordinated lines of questioning to service chaplains to use to reject religious exemption requests.

Aside from the religious exemption requests, the Army reported on Wednesday that it had received another 653 permanent medical exemption requests, of which it has approved five and rejected 595.

The Army has issued a total of 5,921 temporary exemptions, including for those awaiting processing of their permanent exemption requests.

3,611 soldiers have outright refused to take the COVID-19 vaccines.

Across the active component of the U.S. Army, 97 percent of the force is at least partially vaccinated, with 96 percent fully vaccinated. Across the Army Reserve, 78 percent of the force is at least partially vaccinated, with 73 percent fully vaccinated.

While other military branches have already begun separating service members for refusing the vaccines, the U.S. Army has not yet separated a single soldier for vaccine refusal alone. The Army has issued 2,994 official reprimands to soldiers who have refused the vaccines so far, and has relieved at least six officers of their commands for refusing the vaccines.

“As of January 11, the Army has not involuntarily separated any Soldiers solely for refusing the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Army press release stated. “As previously announced, this month Army officials intend to issue further guidance for the mandatory initiation of separation for Soldiers who refuse this lawful order.”