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Rep. Lamborn submits bill to protect unvaccinated service academy students from punishment

Air Force Academy cadets toss their hats in the air as the Air Force Thunderbirds fly over at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2022 at Falcon Stadium. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn introduced legislation Friday in the House of Representatives aimed at protecting service academy students — such as those in the Air Force Academy — from punishment for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I am deeply concerned about the decisions being made at the Pentagon that would penalize cadets for choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Colorado Springs Republican said in a press release. “They are even considering asking them to pay back hundreds of thousands in tuition.”

For cadets and midshipmen who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, the press release says the Defending Freedom of Conscience for Cadets and Midshipmen Act would clarify that they can’t be denied graduation, can’t be dismissed from service and can’t be subject to repayment claims due to their vaccination status.

“These young men and women made the patriotic and selfless decision to apply themselves academically and serve their nation at one of our U.S. service academies,” Lamborn said in the release. “I won’t stop fighting to protect those who protect us.”

On Wednesday, three Air Force Academy seniors who were denied religious waivers from the military mandate requiring the COVID-19 vaccine were unable to participate in the school’s commencement ceremony.

The school issued a statement that the three cadets won’t be commissioned in the Air Force until they receive the vaccine. There is also discussion of the three students being forced to return over $200,000 in tuition fees, but the Air Force Academy stated that is a decision that will be made by the secretary of the Air Force.

Two of the three cadets watched the ceremony from the bleachers on Wednesday, while the third chose not to attend.

One of the three cadets also submitted their resignation to the Air Force Academy. All three cadets did receive their diplomas.

Eleven other House members are co-sponsors of the legislation.  U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced companion legislation on the issue earlier this week.

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