‘They Were Trying to Force Him to Violate His Religious Beliefs’: Marine Punished For Refusing Vaccine Mandate

Wife of a Marine Corps major disciplined for refusing to get vaccinated on religious grounds speaks out.
By J.M. Phelps
J.M. Phelps
J.M. Phelps
Freelance reporter
J.M. Phelps is a writer and researcher of both Islamist and Chinese threats.
August 5, 2022 Updated: August 5, 2022

A Marine Corps major selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel recently went through a Board of Inquiry process and was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming of an officer” for maintaining his religious conviction and refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Epoch Times spoke with Meghan Harwood, the wife of the officer in question, Major Nick Harwood. While her husband will soon be separated from the Corps after 15 years of honorable service, Mrs. Harwood said, his case represents an “excellent example of the farce that is the military legal system.”

She said his religious beliefs and Constitutional rights were trampled on, explaining that “he is not being afforded the rights of every other American in this country.” His request for religious accommodation was denied, as well as his subsequent appeal.

Major Harwood was given 48 hours to take the shot after receiving the denial of his appeal in December 2021. “They were trying to force him to violate his religious beliefs,” but according to his wife, “he maintained his religious conviction.”

And as a result, he was relieved of his position and assigned to work elsewhere.

Over six months after the denial of religious accommodation, he met with his Board of Inquiry on July 18. Mrs. Harwood described it as “an administrative court,” one absent the strict legal proceedings of a standard court.

“There’s no judge,” she said. “Instead, there are three high-ranking officers that vote whether to keep him or separate him [from the Marine Corps].”

One of the points the government prosecutor argued, she said, is that when a person joins the military, they also limit their rights. He then tied this point to limiting free speech, giving the example that “you can’t go into work and tell your commanding officer off.” He also tied it to the Second Amendment, noting that “you can’t just bring a gun into some workplaces.”

Both points, according to Mrs. Harwood, are “extremely asinine” examples of limiting someone’s rights.

Limited Testimony

While Major Harwood’s wife was able to testify at his Board of Inquiry, her speech was limited.

“While the prosecutor objected to me testifying for my husband, I was told that I could testify as long as I don’t talk about our religious beliefs,” she explained.

In the end, Major Harwood was charged with “conduct unbecoming of an officer,” as well as multiple counts of failing to obey an order or regulation, according to Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

His wife considers each charge to be an assault on his Constitutional rights, as she said, “Article 90 specifically states that any order that goes against Constitutional or statutory rights is deemed unlawful, [explaining that] they’ve ignored an important Constitutional First Amendment right in the matter—the freedom of religion.”

Mrs. Harwood added that they are violating statutory law under the Religious Freedom Act of 1993.

“The manual for court martials says that the lawfulness of an order is a question of law to be determined by a military judge, but with the Board of Inquiry, no one is standing before a military judge,” she said.

‘Discrimination’

“In my husband’s case,” Mrs. Harwood said, “two of the three board members are commanders, [emphasizing that] they are actually some of the Marines tasked with ordering people to get the shot.” She questions how her husband is receiving a fair trial from three Marines who are vaccinated, while two of the three are giving orders to take the vaccine.

They are also responsible for negatively endorsing religious accommodations, she added.

“If [Major Harwood] was actually able to attend a court martial hearing in front of a military judge,” she said, “he would have more of a fair chance.” And according to Mrs. Harwood, “they know they would lose in an actual court of law.”

Two courts have issued preliminary injunctions barring the Navy and Air Force from punishing servicemembers who have sought religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate.

Major Harwood also submitted for early retirement. His wife said his paperwork was “never forwarded up” the chain of command.

“We were told that they were going to keep it for his board, so that if they were going to separate him, then they could offer him early retirement,” she said, adding that “they never did.”

7 Religious Exemptions

As of July 6, the Marine Corps has approved seven religious exemptions, 602 administrative or medical exemptions, and has separated 3,069 people.

“Why are some afforded their Constitutional right [to freedom of religion] while my husband and thousands of others are not?” Mrs. Harwood questioned. “It’s discrimination and it’s not equal opportunity.”

Others that have been granted administrative or medical exemption “slip through the cracks” in the name of military readiness, she said, adding that her husband has “missed zero days” for a positive COVID test. “All the while,” she said, “others that have been vaccinated have missed many days.”

Epoch Times Photo
United States Marines queue to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Hansen in Kin, Japan on April 28, 2021. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

‘Weakening the Military’

“This is not about the health of a unit or military readiness,” Mrs. Harwood continued. “It’s about discrimination, [and] Christians are being labeled with conduct unbecoming of an officer.”

According to Mrs. Harwood, “our military is single-handedly being dismantled by leaders who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against enemies, both foreign and domestic.”

Rather than supporting and defending the freedom of religion, she said, “senior leaders are choosing to not approve religious accommodations.”

Their decisions are “weakening the military,” she said.

She prays that “our leaders would have the courage to end this mandate before the damage to our military is beyond repair.”

She admitted that her family has “made so many sacrifices” for her husband’s service. “It’s not just a job; it is a lifestyle,” she explained. “We understand Nick’s calling, so we make those sacrifices.”

Today, she is saddened that “the military is not even willing to come to a common ground.”

But when it’s all said and done, she said, her family will continue to “trust in God, knowing that [Major Harwood] could be called [by God] to do something outside the military.”

Mrs. Harwood offered a favorite quote from former president Ronald Reagan to the American people:

“Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Marines Corp for comment.

J.M. Phelps
Freelance reporter
J.M. Phelps is a writer and researcher of both Islamist and Chinese threats.