Marine Corps Grants Two Religious Exemptions for COVID-19 Vaccine

January 13, 2022 5:45 PM
Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD-18) on Feb. 14, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps has approved the Pentagon’s religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The service approved two religious exemptions, it announced in its weekly update Thursday afternoon. There have been 3,350 religious exemption requests from Marines as of date, and 3,212 and have been processed, with the majority resulting in denials.

All religious exemption requests are handled by Manpower and Reserve Affairs, which is reviewing them on an individual basis, according to the update.

“The Marine Corps has a compelling governmental interest in mission accomplishment at the individual, unit, and organizational levels. The necessary elements of mission accomplishment include: (1) military readiness; (2) unit cohesion; (3) good order and discipline; and (4) health and safety,” according to the update. “Adjudication Authorities pay particular attention to how religious accommodation request determinations will impact the Marine’s and unit’s ability to accomplish the mission, and consider the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”

Approving religious exemptions buck the trend of the other services, which have yet to approve one, as of Thursday. The Navy has not approved a religious exemption for a vaccine in seven years, USNI News previously reported.

The service has separated 351 Marines for vaccine refusal, the most of any branch. The Army issued reprimands to 2,994 soldiers but has not separated anyone. The Navy issued separations to 20 sailors, all who are within their first 180 days of service, USNI News reported. The Air Force has separated 87 active-duty airmen, according to their Jan. 11 update.

The Marine Corps currently has 95 percent of its active-duty force fully vaccinated. The force is 97 partially-vaccinated, with the percentage including those who are considered fully vaccinated.

The reserve is 87 percent partially vaccinated and 86 percent fully vaccinated, according to the update.

Outside of religious exemptions, the service approved 943 medical or administrative exemptions.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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