No U.S. military branch has granted a request for religious accommodations from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, military officials said in court filings Friday.
Over 16,000 U.S. service members have submitted applications for a religious exemption from the vaccination requirements, according to court documents. The Air Force has seen the most, by far, with 11,070.
Military officials have said they’re following processes in reviewing the applications and deciding whether they are legitimate. But the new filings show that in addition to approving zero religious accommodation requests from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, military officials have approved just a handful of accommodation requests from other vaccines in recent years.
Lawyers representing service members applying for religious and medical exemptions have told The Epoch Times that military leadership has brought enormous pressure to bear on troops to get vaccinated. They said that officials largely appeared to be stalling on ruling on requests to try to discourage troops from filing them.
The Army has approved or denied none of the 114 requests under review and the Coast Guard has not adjudicated any of the 818 requests it’s received, officials said.
Some requests have been adjudicated, the filings show. All have been denied.
A small number of medical exemptions have been granted. The Navy, for instance, has granted six permanent medical exemptions. The Marines have granted 14 such exemption requests.
Many troops remain unvaccinated, military officials reported. That includes approximately 25,000 active-duty soldiers.
“Joe Biden imposed an illegal order to force every active and reserve service member to get the injections and compounded his illegal actions by depriving these military heroes of their constitutional and legal rights to religious exemptions. Biden’s Department of Justice knew two weeks ago when the court ordered the release of this critical information that this day of accountability was coming and yet not one person’s religious accommodation request has been granted. This is telling and will not bode well for their defense,” Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the troops, told The Epoch Times in an email.
“It is clear that all roads in the military lead to denial of all religious requests,” he added.
Members whose requests are rejected face punitive measures, including possible court-martial, according to the new filings.
One of the plaintiffs said this week he was removed from his leadership position on Nov. 1 after appealing an accommodation request denial.
“The testimony before this court demonstrates the immediate and irreparable harm that plaintiffs and other members of the class are facing right now,” they wrote.
The Pentagon, which did not immediately return a request for comment, has defended how the branches are carrying out Secretary Lloyd Austin’s August vaccine mandate.
“The secretary is pleased by the level of effort that the military departments have taken to enact this mandatory vaccine regimen,” John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters earlier this month.
“He’s not unmindful of the fact that in each of the military departments there are some members who are declining, refusing to take the vaccine, some that are applying for the exemptions, some exemptions that are being granted,” he added.