(Headline USA) More than 800 Marines have been discharged from service because of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The military branch announced on Thursday that 96% of its active-duty service members have complied with the mandate, but 873 members refused. There are still 5,400 other Marines who are also unvaccinated, but have either not been discharged or are awaiting the results for a medical or religious exemption request.
The Marines have only approved 1,067 administrative or medical exemptions thus far, and only six religious exemptions. A total of 3,633 exemption requests have been submitted.
Other military branches have been similarly hesitant to approve religious exemption requests. Only 17 Air Force service members have been granted religious exemptions, and only one Navy sailor’s religious exemption has been conditionally approved. The Army has not granted any religious exemptions.
The courts have thus far refused to overturn Biden’s military vaccine mandate. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did rule last month that the Navy and Department of Defense cannot take adverse action against sailors who requested religious exemptions but were denied them.
The three-judge panel wrote that the Navy had “not demonstrated ‘paramount interests’ that justify vaccinating these [sailors] against COVID-19 in violation of their religious beliefs.”
At least one Republican senator has vowed to investigate the military for its refusal to grant religious exemption requests. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., sent a letter to the DOD inspector general last month requesting that he launch an audit into the rejections to determine whether they were biased.
“From the data points on religious accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine that I have received, it is clear that DOD leaders are ignoring the sincerely-held religious beliefs of service members,” he wrote.
Lankford pointed out that the Army “still has not granted a single permanent religious accommodation despite thousands of requests” and that given “DOD’s track record, it is not unreasonable to presume these adjudications were made in an attempt to establish an outward perception of a just process in response to public outrage, rather than the result of credible analysis.”