Vaccine Mandates Sow Mass Chaos Throughout Military As Service Members Seek Religious Accommodations

Mixed messages from the higher-ups, unclear repercussions for refusal, a disparity in treatment among different states and branches of the military, a range of deadlines, and goalpost-shifting on the meaning of religious exemptions have converged to create mass chaos throughout the military as tens of thousands of yet-unvaccinated service members grapple with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and many seek exemptions.

The Pentagon has promised that these requests for accommodation, which are mostly religious but include some medical, will be considered on a “case-by-case” basis, but that assurance provides no clarity about the military’s subjective process for assessing the sincerity of religious belief. Nor does it grant hope to the many unvaccinated members of the Armed Forces whose personal convictions are presently being scrutinized and might be disregarded.

Vaccination Rates and Deadlines Vary

Deadlines are all over the place. The Air Guard and Reserve deadline is Dec. 2, with a Marine Corps and Navy deadline of Nov. 28 and a deadline for Army soldiers of Dec. 15. The date for Army National Guard and Reserve isn’t until June 30, 2022.

The deadline for members of the Air Force and Space Force already passed at the beginning of November, with the Air Force immediately discharging 40 entry-level service members and preparing to address the roughly 10,000 troops who still aren’t vaccinated. Most are awaiting the verdict on their requests for religious accommodation, while others are seeking “administrative accommodations” if they are about to retire. Some lone airmen or small groups of them spread around the globe reportedly don’t have nearby commanders giving them clear orders about getting the vaccine.

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