From the Pilgrims and Puritans that fled England to follow the religious dictates of their consciences to the Bill of Rights that enshrines freedom of religion in the US Constitution, religious liberty is at the heart of the American ethos. The Department of Defense has further established policy to accommodate the “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs), which do not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, or health and safety.” However, there is a growing perception that DoD is too dismissive of service members’ sincerely held religious beliefs—especially since it has become a central issue surrounding vaccination against COVID-19. Federal judges in Texas, Florida, and Georgia have issued injunctions against the military for seemingly discriminating against service members’ religious vaccine exemption requests. The Texas case has recently been granted class-action status for 4,095 Navy religious exemption requests. Additionally, in a statement on the COVID-19 vaccine, the Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services opined, “The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible.” None of this looks favorably on a military that has been losing the trust and confidence of the American people.
I am a vaccinated Army chaplain and since DoD announced its COVID-19 vaccination mandate, much of my mission has involved the processing and tracking of religious exemption requests. I have reviewed over three hundred such packets, proofread and provided feedback on scores of chaplain interview memos, and personally conducted such interviews for junior enlisted through field-grade officers. That experience has reinforced two overarching observations that, although mostly focused on the Army, I believe should be reflected in ongoing discussions about DoD’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its commitment to accommodate service members’ religious beliefs.
Religious exemptions to vaccination requirements are not requested because the vaccine keeps soldiers from attending worship services, reading sacred scripture, or offering prayers. Rather the burden is to a service member’s conscience, which is explicitly covered under DoD policy (“conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs”). Sincerely held religious beliefs are often at the core of a soldier’s identity and are tied to two of the five domains of holistic health and fitness: spiritual readiness and mental readiness. Spiritual Readiness includes personal qualities that “come from religious, philosophical, or human values and form the basis for character, disposition, decision making, and integrity.” Character is defined in the doctrinal manual as part of mental readiness—a soldier’s “true nature including identity, sense of purpose, values, virtues, morals, and conscience.” Simply put, religion informs character. Character includes conscience. Violating conscience leads to a conflicted soul. In extreme cases this can result in moral injury and render a soldier combat ineffective. General George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the Army during World War II and later secretary of state and secretary of defense, foreshadowed the relevance of this perspective in his 1941 speech at Trinity College. “The soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul, are everything,” he said. “Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end.” For less than 1 percent of our active duty soldiers, receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is a burden to their consciences that forces them to choose between military service and their sincerely held religious beliefs. Consider these examples from actual exemption requests:
- A young soldier whose mother, while at the abortion clinic to terminate her pregnancy, sees him on the ultrasound and changes her mind. This soldier’s very existence is tied to a narrative of not being aborted himself. As such he struggles to disassociate the reported use of fetal cell lines from his own story, seasoned with his Christian faith.
- Devout noncommissioned officers who adhere strictly to a kosher or halal lifestyle based on their Jewish or Muslim faith. Their consciences are burdened by some of the vaccine ingredients that only came to their attention due to the publicity surrounding the pandemic.
- Multiple active duty Army medical doctors who risk being shunned professionally because their faith is at odds with the COVID-19 vaccine. They clearly are informed of the medical science and effects of remaining unvaccinated, but the same conscience that called them to serve humanity in the field of medicine restricts their receiving these particular vaccines.
These are just a sample of the thoughtfully expressed and sincerely held beliefs that underwrite many of the vaccination exemption requests I have personally seen. Other requests came from soldiers with commendable service records—soldiers who have served multiple combat deployments and who have earned Combat Action Badges and Purple Hearts. Their spirituality and their admirable service are not one and the same, but neither can they necessarily be separated.
Finally, the Army is a values-based organization that finds strength in diversity, and this diversity extends to religious matters of conscience. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate presents an opportunity to affirm the Army’s commitment to soldiers’ religious liberty and spiritual readiness.
Risk is Low
The Army may recognize the importance of a soldier’s conscience and sincerely held religious beliefs, but these alone do not warrant a religious exemption. Commanders must balance the soldier’s request against military necessity, including such factors as risk to mission and risk to the force. This is the burden of command where it is understood that each decision can have cascading effects. The good news is the battlefield has changed. Our commanders have successfully navigated through the worst of the pandemic. The COVID-19 of 2022 is not the same virus of 2020. The virus is weaker and our defenses are stronger. The vaccine mandate accomplished its purpose to protect the force with 98 percent of active duty soldiers now vaccinated. On today’s COVID-19 battlefield, neither the volume of religious exemption requests nor the actual threat from a service member contracting COVID-19 poses such a risk to readiness as to require a soldier to violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs.
The Army reports only 3,760 (0.77 percent) of its 486,500 active duty soldiers have requested a religious exemption to the vaccine. Even if all 3,760 were approved, on average a battalion of one thousand soldiers would only have seven personnel religiously exempt from the vaccine. So few being granted an exception to policy poses minimal threat to that unit’s readiness, especially when weighed comprehensively and accounting for the potential impact to individuals’ spiritual and mental readiness—again, two of the five fitness domains specified in the Army’s holistic health and fitness doctrine. On the contrary, approving those requests would affirm the Army’s People First priority.
Furthermore, after two years of the pandemic it is likely many unvaccinated soldiers have some level of immunity from a previous infection. Whether or not natural immunity is more effective than vaccinated immunity (or vice versa), it should be indisputable that a prior COVID-19 infection grants a degree of protection and therefore decreases any risk the unvaccinated might pose. As understanding of COVID-19 and natural immunity continues to evolve, it would not be surprising if DoD policy reverted back to the standing regulation that included a medical exemption for “evidence of immunity” based on “documented infection.”
Contrary to popular belief, immunization status does not make a soldier nondeployable. Rather, the soldier is coded as Medical Readiness Category (MRC) 2 and is still deemed deployable in accordance with existing regulation. That fact is explicitly stated in the order mandating soldiers receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Should a deployment arise for an unvaccinated soldier, the decision can be made based on that specific mission whether the soldier goes forward or not. If the mission does not require vaccination, the soldier will deploy. If it does, that soldier will support the unit as part of the rear detachment. The Army routinely does this for other circumstances ranging from diabetes or physical profile limitations to attendance at professional military education courses.
Far from being a grave risk to the military, the risk from a service member contracting COVID-19 is minimal. Statistically, service members are neither dying nor getting seriously ill from COVID-19 in any of its variant forms. In 2020 and 2021, DoD reported thirty-one COVID-19-related deaths in its active component out of 228,661 infections—a resulting 0.01 percent fatality rate. To put that figure in perspective, the COVID-19 fatality rate for the general US population is ninety-one times higher than it is for active duty military personnel. Across all components, the hospitalization rate for the military due to a COVID-19 infection is only 0.66 percent. This includes all of 2020, when neither a vaccine nor proven treatment options existed, and all of 2021, which saw the more contagious Delta variant spread.
Similarly, the current COVID-19 variants are even less severe. Of the 1,117,273 active cases of COVID-19 in the United States on April 19, 2022, only 1,438 (0.13 percent) are considered “serious” or “critical.” This includes the civilian population with all of its age ranges, comorbidities, and less than 67 percent fully vaccinated rate. One can assume the generally younger, healthier, and 98 percent vaccinated active duty military population is faring even better.
Each religious exemption case is unique and distinct factors should be considered accordingly. These factors could include the vaccination status of the larger military community, including family members and retirees, or the impact the vaccination status has with the host nation for soldiers based outside of the United States. In general, this combination of already highly vaccinated service members (98 percent); infection survivability (99.99 percent), and nominal infection severity (99.9 percent experiencing only mild symptoms) suggests the risk posed by COVID-19 to the active duty military can be kept to an extraordinarily (and acceptably) low level. Improved therapeutics and reduced threat of current variants further minimize risk to mission and risk to force. With less than 1 percent of the active duty Army requesting a religious vaccination exemption, even the cumulative impact of granting multiple accommodations is negligible.
Collectively COVID-19 has had a momentous impact on all aspects of our lives. The negative impact is compounded for those requesting an administrative exemption for their sincerely held religious beliefs—deep matters of conscience—as the vaccination mandate forces them to choose between their faith and their military service. We are too noble of a nation and an institution to unnecessarily violate their consciences. The COVID-vaccine mandate has been successful in getting 98 percent of the force already vaccinated. Although the Army surgeon general has approved only a handful of religious exemptions to date, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth has suggested there will be a “fairly small number of people who are not granted exemptions.” That is encouraging. The Department of the Army can grant religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate without compromising military readiness. The mandate has achieved its purpose remarkably well—an achievement that is not put at risk by the small number of religious exemption requests.
Sincere religious exemption requests can and should be accommodated. This is in accordance with existing policy and, equally important, is the hallmark of a force that respects its individual members’ core beliefs, recognizes the fundamental importance of one’s moral compass, and strives to sustain its commitment to its own most foundational values.
Chaplain (Major) Paul Tolbert is married to an emergency room healthcare provider and is a father of three sons. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College and holds degrees in mathematics and historical theology from the University of Mobile, Duke University, and Campbell University.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Sgt. Andrew Greenwood, US Army
Great article and very well articulated.
Very articulate! Well written and researched! Unfortunately, it's 07 months too late. All the evidence produced has not (and won't) convince a DoD that wants complete compliance, nor Surgeon Generals who conform to pressure and hide real data, nor multitudes of general officers who lack personal courage and integrity to uphold the oath to the US Constitution, nor Chaplain Corps who remain silent while religious liberty is disregarded.
There is a spiritual enemy that needs to purge the military of Christians, believers, conservatives and free-thinkers in order to have total compliance in prepararion for what's to come. History and science proves that people will follow immoral, illegal and unethical orders when received from perceived authorities….even if orders result in the removal of liberty, and the deaths of freedom loving, law abiding citizens.
The concluding paragraph of our article above:
"Sincere religious exemption requests can and should be accommodated. This is in accordance with existing policy and, equally important, is the hallmark of a force that respects its individual members’ core beliefs, recognizes the fundamental importance of one’s moral compass, and strives to sustain its commitment to its own most foundational values."
Personnel who sign up for military service must be made to understand — for example in their contracts — that such things as "an individual members' core beliefs," their "moral compass" and even our nation's "most foundational values;" ALL OF THESE — certainly not in all but possibly at least in certain circumstances (for example, an even deadlier pandemic?) — must be made to give way; this, (a) to the needs of their service and (b) to the needs of their nation.
From this such perspective, if personnel should find that military service incompatible with their beliefs, etc., then these personnel can and will understand — up front — that it is best for them to (a) forego military service and (b) seek employment elsewhere.
Thus, if my suggestion above is followed, then if and when pandemics (etc., etc., etc.) should hit us again in some time in the future, this such "not compatible with my beliefs, etc." problem — that we are experiencing currently and which may establish severely unfavorable precedent for later — may be largely eliminated?
Considering you glossed over the data that proves minimal risk to our service members, could you at least list what other countries, especially our adversaries, also have mandates on their service members?
Should we really be concerned with other countries are doing?
It's a case for COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests…stick to the context. When smallpox 2.0 hits, then your point makes sense.
Before smallpox 2.0 hits — or some equivalent — should we (a) not use the opportunity presented by COVID to (b) fix this problem now?
Your assertion that their beliefs “must give way” smacks of utilitarianism and a lack of moral courage. The idolatry of vaccination is a poor substitute for actual risk management.
As per my "let's fix this problem" proposal above, their beliefs would not — hereafter — need to give way.
Exactly how do you define "needs of a nation" or "needs of the military." Covid-19 has killed ONLY .3% (that's POINT THREE PERCENT) of Americans and even FEWER in the military. THAT IS FACT. Where do you get off chiding us about "needs." This is NOT a genuine "need" it is a "want" for folks like you. You WANT total compliance (total power) to mandate AN INEFFECTIVE and DANGEROUS genetic therapy shot that CAUSES more illness and death than it solves. That is NOT a "need" it is a "want" on your part and fulfilling your "want" WEAKENS THE US MILITARY AND THREATENS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and its CONSTITUTION. End of story.
Billions have been vaccinated. Statistical 0 serious negative effects. If you don’t have the common sense to get vaccinated then don’t join the military. Worked in 1775 with inoculation and works now
Well, months later we found that there is more harm than benefit from these COVID EUA vaccines to our service members. Also, it is against the law to force a EUA (experimental vaccine) on our troops. Someone in the chain of command will pay for what has been done to our military personnel.
You argue that someone with a religious belief should not be able to serve the nation by joining the military. You provide this opinion by singling out the closing paragraph, after the author elaborates through the entire article that these accommodations are in accordance with public law and regulation. So the Congress made these laws, they are in force; military enlistment contracts are not worded the way you think they should be, per your argument. Your options are to vote for new representatives to enact the laws you wish to see in place, or become more informed about current law (the author just provided you the law and rationale behind it). Your opinion about how things should be does not matter, and some more critical thought about how military members express their opinions through their service would be appreciated, and beneficial to the discussion.
I do not think there is a need to "vote for new representatives to enact the laws you (I) wish to see in place."
I only think that the current COVID crisis provides us with a "wake up call" — and a unique opportunity — to revisit these law; this, so that we might consider fixing these problems before they hit us again.
The data on vaccine resistance are unambiguous. The strongest predictor is political affiliation. It is highly likely that few of these "religious" exemptions stem from sincerely held beliefs. Most are likely related to political affiliation. All of these Soldiers willingly received other vaccinations when they joined, yet suddenly vaccines are against their religious beliefs? Unlikely.
For most of these Soldiers, their political beliefs carry more weight than their obligation to the Constitution, the Nation, and the safety of their fellow servicemembers.
If, as the author claims, only 0.77 percent of Soldiers have requested exemptions, separating these Soldiers will have little impact on readiness. Not only will it make the force healthier, but it will also rid the Army of Soldiers who are at best, ideologues prone to believing misinformation.
The Army is better off without them.
From the perspective offered by M.R. above, should we consider that, today, we even may need to consider whether a certain political affiliation — for example, one which tells its followers to not wear masks and not to get vaccines during the time of a pandemic — whether this such political affiliation, now potentially, is incompatible with military service?
Or, in truth, is this just an unfortunate passing fad — one that Congress, our national leaders and the military services (all having grave national security responsibilities) — need not take seriously and need not be concerned with?
It is more complicated than simple political affiliation. My guess is that the political affiliation you refer to are conservative republicans. Most republicans have no issue with the vaccine and have received it, which means that political affiliation alone is an insufficient explanation for vaccine hesitancy. This would be true even if 100% of those requesting religious exemptions were republican (which is most likely not the case.)
A better explanation is that sincerely held religious beliefs explain both vaccine hesitancy and republican political affiliation.
As far as impact to readiness, while .77% seems negligible, the impact of those .77% is far from negligible. Additionally, the mandate may also be a significant factor in the current recruiting crisis, which having long term negative impact on readiness.
Beautiful and sincere letter. Thank you so much for taking the time on behalf of the religious non-vax community.
Moral injury has been a hot topic in the behavioral health enterprise.
“Moral injury is the social, psychological, and spiritual harm that arises from a betrayal of one’s core values, such as justice, fairness, and loyalty.” (Psych Today)
The author’s appeal to conscience is, indeed, no small matter and the DoD has said with their actions, “We are okay potentially morally injuring our own servicemembers.” The DoD has effectually set conditions to morally injure it’s own by denying religious accommodation requests in which the SM clearly articulates religious basis, sincerity, and burden to religious practice, the chain of command recommends approval, and is denied by the decision authority.
The truth is that the operating environment is not what it was in Summer 2020. The DoD grossly overstates the present risk in their conclusions, and is summarily treading all over the 1st Amendment in the lack of agile and adaptive thinking. While American society continues to transition to “living with COVID”, the DoD continues to sacrifice it’s religiously convicted American men and women on “Hill CV-19” – the very men and women we WANT fighting and leading in our nation’s conflicts.
Great article with not only great research and analytics, but also great common sense. The way that the US Government and all branches of the military have been handling this has been absolutely insane and inappropriate. Approving authorities have already been told which matters they will and will not take into consideration. And they've been told they will take NOTHING into consideration. The Army literally just approved it's first and only religious accommodation thus far. That's 1 in 3,760 in 8 months. To believe that there will be a “fairly small number of people who are not granted exemptions.” is a longshot. Maybe small in relation to the whole Army and not in relation to the number of Soldiers that submitted a Religious Accommodation Request. I sent my request up on October 6th 2021 and just got told today (April 21st 2022) that my request got denied.
I've been in for 13 years, I've deployed 3 times, I've been shot and blown up, I've been awarded the Purple Heart, I've received nothing but outstanding NCOERs, never received UCMJ or even a negative counseling, I've been a Ranger Instructor, a Team Leader through Platoon Sergeant and BN Operations. With all that said, you'd think I was the biggest dirtbag ever once this vaccine came around. Nobody cared about my religious views, but they sure hated when I was effecting their numbers they were reporting up.
I got tired of it all and honestly really did lose all faith in the senior "leaders" that were afraid to stand up for their Soldiers and push back against the mandates. Way more Soldiers didn't want to take it, and they were FORCED (yes, I'm going to say forced because they were scared of the leaders that were treating them inappropriately) into taking it. I decided to finally medboard out of the Army. I always just pushed through the pain and held off on getting out, but this was the final shove in the right direction, and who even knows how my medboard will work out. I have 1 week starting tomorrow to submit the appeal to the refusal. Hopefully it'll take another 5 months like it did the first time so I can get out with some dignity, but I highly doubt I will be that lucky.
Can I ask you why yours was disapproved?
I've been in 11 years and served honorably my whole career and am some what in the same boat as you. my request has been in since September 22nd 2021, so about 216 days now
Chaplain Tolbert must be commended for writing this timely and important piece.
The Army's COVID-19 vaccination policy is increasingly irrational.
The events of recent months caused me to reflect on Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," one of the books I was assigned to read at SAMS. There are an increasing number of intractable "anomalies" that directly challenge the Army's original 2021 rationale for mandatory vaccination. This has created a crisis where we now witness a "proliferation of competing articulations" justifying a policy that no longer makes sense and, I submit, is causing long-term damage to the Army's legitimacy among large swaths of the American public that yield a disproportionately high percentage of combat arms enlistees.
I discussed this matter yesterday with a COL acquaintance of mine and came to the conclusion that many senior Army leaders have either lost touch with the pulse of the force or are willfully ignoring it – regardless of the catastrophic long-term consequences to the institution. We can no longer even recruit enough young Americans to field an Army the size of the one we had in 2018.
Army leaders, at all levels, are diminished in the eyes of many Soldiers, especially those that reluctantly agreed to vaccination in the face of myriad threats. This was an unforced error.
The course of the COVID-19 pandemic and its risk to the military age population are simply at odds with the force protection justifications given since 2021. When vaccines were fielded, Commanders and first-line leaders were provided incomplete information to communicate to their troops and assuage their concerns. I am one of those Commanders. I had absolutely no idea in Spring 2021 about the use of fetal cell lines in the development of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. I personally reassured Soldiers about the vaccines' risk profile and efficacy that were simply untrue in retrospect. I know that I applied subtle coercion and moral suasion to reassure those on the fence. As P.D. notes above, the lingering effects of moral injury are real: not just for the Soldiers that regret getting vaccinations but for the leaders who unwittingly reassured them that everything checked out. This is something that I now have to live with.
The force protection justifications that are still given do not hold up to scrutiny – especially since vaccinated individuals can get COVID-19 and infect others. I would estimate that something like 20% of my command has gotten COVID-19 in the past year – all of them vaccinated. Last month we experienced a small COVID outbreak during an FTX; again, all positive cases were vaccinated. Soldiers are not stupid. They see this happening across the Army and the increasingly aggressive measures to compel vaccination are in direct conflict with their personal, lived reality.
I am now being directed to initiate GOMORs for all unvaccinated Soldiers without completed religious or medical exemption packets pending adjudication. I am further being directed to flag unvaccinated newly enlisted Soldiers that have not even shipped to BCT yet or received ANY of their mandatory DOD vaccinations. I simply do not understand what makes the COVID-19 vaccines so unique that we must resort to these extraordinary measures. What kind of welcome is this to young people enlisting in the Guard and Reserve: "congratulations, welcome to the team, you are being flagged before shipping to Basic Training." This does not engender trust and it breeds cynicism among the shrinking population willing to even enlist in the Reserve Components. This cynicism will bleed over into the communities and institutions where our Soldiers are "centers of influence" for new enlistees. There are profound long-term consequences that I am only beginning to realize.
After reading coverage today about a recent House budget hearing, I openly wonder how much the vaccination policy is contributing to our current recruiting woes. CDC data shows that approximately 50% of males 18-24 in the Southeast are unvaccinated. This is the core population that our Army relies on for its new CMF 11, 13, and 19 personnel – the tip of the spear. Can we assume this risk and the attendant cut in endstrength just to double down on increasingly wobbly justifications for COVID vaccination?
In closing, I have supported all of my personnel that pursued religious exemptions and that was not an easy process to navigate. I don't know if any of the Soldiers would have completed their packets in time without my assistance. At times, it seemed as if the exemption application process was purposely designed to discourage Reserve/Guard personnel from pursuing it due to the challenging timelines, conflicting information provided, and difficulty obtaining Chaplain assistance. In my mind, all of these packets were based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Once upon a time, gender and racial integration in the military were also opposed with arguments based on conscience and sincerely held beliefs. It took us a while, and war and lots of bloodshed, but eventually we saw the gaping flaws in those arguments and stopped giving them credence,
Sometimes it’s necessary to challenge the logic and legitimacy of conscience-based claims. There’s absolutely no compelling faith-based claim that can made against the the fundamental principles of molecular mechanics and biological processes related to mRNA vaccine.
You don’t get to have your way simply by claiming Conscience and sincerely held beliefs. They can’t trump reason.
This is what I find difficult sympathizing with religious resistance against vaccination.
I can sympathizes with respecting well established religious values, and respecting them if they come in conflict with the need of the service.
But to the best of my knowledge, I cannot see the conflict between direct messaging to cellular proteosynthesis and common Protestant values. Nor have I seen a good argument.
That leaves me with a suspicious that the real motivation behind vaccine rejection is something other than adhering to well established religious beliefs.
I don’t necessarily disagree with your take on Protestant beliefs, but then again the author said it’s less than 1% who have this belief. Whether you or I agree with their beliefs is irrelevant. The DoD policy reads “individual” expressions of sincerely held beliefs. Is it “sincere”? (which is admittedly tough to determine… how do you determine sincerity?) But that is precisely what our chaplains try to ascertain during their interview. What’s the religious basis? Is it sincerely held? What is the burden? The regulation addressing conscientious objectors provides some help on determining sincerity. I also found the referenced letter in the article to the archbishop’s statement helpful. It quoted the Supreme Court’s opinion that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”
While there is plenty of evidence to discredit ideas of racial segregation in the service…
How many wars have we won since gender-integrating the military?
I’m not saying that women aren’t or can’t be valuable members of the armed forces… nor am I suggesting that any “conciense-based” opposition to integration is correct… just questioning the precedent you suggest to support your argument.
You’re argument is the same one used by those claiming HIV+ individuals should be blanketly allowed to serve and deploy… or diabetics, or asthmatics, etc. On a case-by-case basis, sure, but that’s why we have ETPs. Wherever one may fall on those particular divides, it’s a question of who gets to serve; it’s not a question of what is or is not a legitimate religious or moral claim.
There is no compelling faith-based claim that Sikhs or wannabe-Vikings or any other group can’t adopt military grooming standards (members of all known faiths, minus purely pacifist ones like anabaptist) have adopted such standards in order to serve without losing the sanction of their community.
Several commanders have allowed Sikhs to forgo grooming standards for their religious standards. The same for members of several other religions. If we can relax one standard, why not relax another. Who are you to say their conscience is less legitimate on this issue than any other’s is on any other? That decision is on the individual and their CoC… and there is no blanket denial that I’m aware of in this case.
I enjoyed reading this article as part of research for a paper I am writing regarding the constitutionality of the Covid-19 vaccine. This article was by far one of the most logical and unbiased out of the myriad of materials I found. I started with an open mind regarding the topic. This article does not have the usual emotional undertone-it is straightforward and factual. Some people do not like facts. They like their own narrative with a slanted bias.
Here is a VACCINATED military Chaplain who is on the frontlines of this debate…seeing the very people who sacrifice and serve our country to protect the very rights they are not afforded. Sure, you signed up for the military and the needs of the military most times trump a person's individual desires and many times their constitutional rights. However, when there is a less restrictive means to accomplish a goal, there is a genuine question of fact whether it is a violation of constitutional rights.
I think many people are up in arms because they received the vaccine against their own judgment and they want all others to tow the line. However, service members with sincerely held religious beliefs should be afforded the discretion to choose for themselves-not to choose between their livelihood and their morals.
As this article states very poignantly, the mission has been accomplished and the unvaccinated do not pose a risk. The vast majority have been vaccinated, the virus is diminished, and these holdouts have very strong moral convictions against receiving this vaccine.
If the military began telling its force they could no longer have children because the military needs are greater than being a parent, would that be okay?
How many boosters will be required by the military?
Major Tolbert- I appreciate this article so much and sincerely hope we start to see some changes with the pending litigation.
Thank you for your rational and thorough article regarding a controversial topic.
This missing element that keeps this article from being compelling is lack of any discussion on what makes the COVID-19 vaccine requirement different from the rest of service immunization requirements. This is nowhere near the first time service members have been fast-tracked to receive immunizations…anyone remember the rush to get everyone injected with gamma globulin (anti-hepatitis A) before Desert Storm? Anthrax vaccine in the late '90s? Smallpox when that came back from the dead around 2012? Do the services see and grant similar requests to avoid the annual flu vaccination? Typhoid? Yellow fever? Hepatitis? If yes, then the whole discussion of risk is superfluous. If no, then we're back to what makes this particular requirement different and controversial.
Warlock, on the contrary I found it quite compelling. The author’s purpose was not to compare past vaccines, but he still alluded to what you’re asking. What is different with this vaccine is that the pandemic brought the ethics behind it into the public arena. As expected, most had no problem with the vaccine and followed the order. But a few did. You and I do not have to agree with their religious beliefs while still respecting them. To force a Soldier to compromise their core principles just to keep their job and feed their family will result in them resenting their military service which erodes unit cohesion and morale. That is counterproductive to what the Army needs. The article summed it up nicely. The mandate accomplished its purpose to protect the force. If the belief is sincere, we can grant the exception as the risk to readiness is negligible.
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You could consider that the current vaccine is still experimental, and will be protected from lawsuits for death as experimental for at least another two years while they finish testing it.
Moderna had tested making drugs with this spike protein method for over a decade prior to COVID 19 and terminated all of those programs due to the harmful effects on the test subjects. There was no breakthrough this time that made it safe, just a convenient emergency that would provide a protective shield over the manufacturers and a guaranteed purchase of 10s of millions of doses from the US government to ensure profitability.
All your vaccines listed were properly vetted, except for the Annual Flu vaccine, which was optional when I was in the army. I received the typical set before deploying overseas, but the only shot I received after that during my service was a tetanus booster.
Thankyou so much for this. I am waiting to go to Boot and hoping the process from when I pretty much am going to request a religious exemption once I arrive goes as smoothly as possible. I believe I have natural immunity since this entire time I have not contracted the virus. I have also seen many vaccinated people I know contract they virus. I do not have a specific political affiliation. I am aware of my constitutional rights and I am looking forward to serving this country. Hope I don’t have any problems.
If anyone has information on if I should submit a request before I ship or if my best option is to wait until as far as I can get then let me know please and thankyou.