Two U.S. Marines on Thursday became the first members of the military to be granted religious exemptions from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, reports the website Task & Purpose.
No information about the two was released because of privacy concerns, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood told the site.
Religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine have been a controversial subject among the population in general. Many are opposed to vaccines that used fetal cells either during research (the two approved mRNA vaccines) or in production (Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
Though the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate on private businesses, his mandate on the military was not part of that ruling and still stands.
"Requests for religious accommodation are meticulously reviewed before being forwarded to the adjudication authority," Wood told Task & Purpose. "Requests are reviewed and endorsed (as applicable) by the Marine's lieutenant colonel commander, colonel commander, and commanding general before being forwarded to the adjudication authority — the deputy commandant, Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
"Within Manpower and Reserve Affairs, there is a three-person religious accommodation board which reviews each package, and makes a recommendation to the deputy commandant. The deputy commandant then personally reviews the content of each package before making a decision."
No other military branches had granted any permanent religious exemptions as of Thursday, officials told the outlet, though the Army has given soldiers a temporary reprieve while their requests are being processed.
A total of 13,763 requests for religious exemptions have been made through all military branches, according to Task & Purpose, and many have already been denied.
Here are the latest figures, according to each branch of service:
- Marine Corps: 3,350 requests; 3,212 processed.
- Army: 2,128 requests; 162 rejected.
- Air Force and Space Force: 2,387 rejected; 2,158 pending.
- Navy: 3,038 active-duty requests; 702 Reserve requests.
The Navy has been temporarily blocked from punishing 35 special operators who refused to be vaccinated on religious grounds.
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