‘Military Leadership Is Failing Us’: Unvaccinated Marine Officer Who Was Denied Religious Exemption Speaks Out

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An unvaccinated Marine Corps serviceman is sounding the alarm, saying that the denial of spiritual exemptions for the Defense Department’s (DoD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate which went into effect successful August is simply a nonstop battle connected the rights of service-members everywhere, and whitethorn beryllium portion of a larger effort to purge the military of conservative-leaning Christians.

The Epoch Times spoke to Major Lewis Paul (a pseudonym), who has served successful the Marine Corps for astir 20 years. Paul spoke to the work connected the information of anonymity, fearing reprisals. He explained the process of seeking a spiritual accommodation, indicating that each petition travels up the concatenation of command, with the last determination made astatine Headquarters Marine Corps. That decision, helium said, is based connected a proposal from the three-member Religious Accommodation Review Board which past forwards requests to Lt. Gen. David Ottignon, the Deputy Commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, for determination and signature.

While a effect is expected to beryllium fixed wrong 30 days, Paul said helium did not get his effect from office until astir 100 days later. Denials tin beryllium appealed straight to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, which is wherever Paul finds himself today. If his entreaty is denied, helium volition person 30 days to comply by taking the vaccine oregon look punitive separation from the Marine Corps.

Paul’s spiritual accommodation petition was accompanied by a antagonistic endorsement from his enactment that fundamentally said, “do not recommend,” helium said. Given the sensitivity that usually accompanies spiritual accommodation requests, the due endorsement, helium said, should person been a neutral endorsement, 1 that would person simply allowed his petition to beryllium considered based connected its idiosyncratic merits. Paul besides noted that aft enduring what helium described arsenic an interrogation from the chaplain, helium had to support his accommodation earlier each Commander who told him that helium should comply with mandate, arsenic determination was nary accidental a petition would beryllium approved.

“The concatenation of bid has nary concern making a determination connected what is oregon what is not a sincere spiritual belief, but they chose to adhd their ain antagonistic endorsement—and I would taxable this is thing much than a unreserved to amusement however loyal they are to the existent administration, alternatively than advocator for their Marines,” Paul said.

The process has near him feeling “betrayed,” helium added.

Mike Berry, whose ineligible enactment astatine First Liberty Institute helped secure a preliminary injunction successful aboriginal January that stopped the DoD from taking immoderate enactment against a radical of Navy SEALs who person spiritual objections to the vaccine mandate, told The Epoch Times that “betrayal is simply a cosmopolitan feeling” experienced by galore successful akin situations crossed each branches of subject service.

“[Service members] consciousness similar [military and civilian] enactment has fto them down aft galore years—in immoderate cases, decades—of honorable and faithful service,” Berry said. “Many are feeling ignored oregon adjacent spat upon.”

“All successful the sanction of governmental docket and governmental expediency, radical of religion who are serving successful azygous are being told that the lone radical that substance are those who chose to get the vaccine oregon those who don’t clasp to sincerely held spiritual beliefs that would forestall them from getting the vaccine,” helium said.

A Legacy Cut Short

Despite nationalist statements stating each spiritual accommodation would beryllium reviewed connected its idiosyncratic merits, Paul said, “each lawsuit is lone being looked astatine arsenic a formality to appease the law, arsenic the Marine Corps presently has nary volition of granting immoderate spiritual accommodation to not instrumentality the shot.”

He noted that his refusal missive was a word-for-word lucifer with the connection each Marine receives erstwhile they are denied accommodation. The missive from the Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs said the “decision indispensable beryllium accordant with ngo accomplishment, including information of imaginable aesculapian risks to different persons comprising the portion oregon organizations, [and] immunizations are a captious constituent of idiosyncratic and portion readiness.”

It besides noted determination was “no less-restrictive mode of accommodating” the petition successful a mode that “ensures subject readiness and the preservation of the wellness of the force.”

When Paul sought further documentation astir the decision, helium was lone fixed further that appeared to beryllium template documents that lone near abstraction for the decision-maker’s initials, with nary abstraction for comments.

Paul finds it highly improbable that the Marine Corps reviewed his lawsuit connected its idiosyncratic merits, arsenic required by instrumentality successful the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Thousands of Marines look dismissal for their continued refusal to get the shot. The Marines had required each members to get the jab oregon use for an exemption by November 2021. To date, lone 2 Marine Corps Religious Accommodation requests person been approved, according to Jan. 13 connection from the Marine Corps, making the Marines the archetypal subject subdivision to assistance spiritual exemptions.

As of Jan. 12, 3,350 requests person been made with 3,212 processed, the Marines said. Meanwhile, 351 Marines person been discharged for refusing to instrumentality the vaccine.

Ninety-five percent of the Marines are afloat vaccinated and an further 2 percent partially vaccinated, the Marines said. It added that of the Marines who person been hospitalized owed to COVID-19, 88 percent were unvaccinated.

Before the mandate went into effect successful August, Paul said the Marine Corps took steps midsummer to rewrite the spiritual accommodation order, pointing to Marine Corps Order 1730.9, which arsenic signed connected July 12.

The latest July order, helium said, added connection that specifically addressed immunizations to a antithetic grade than the erstwhile order. “It fundamentally suggests that everything tin beryllium considered for spiritual accommodation, but immunizations, and that antecedently wasn’t the case,” helium explained. It besides appears that the erstwhile mentation of the bid has been “scrubbed from the web.”

“There were galore steps taken to alteration the process and guarantee that the lone reply Marines would ever person would beryllium a declined spiritual accommodation,” helium said.

Paul realizes helium is warring an uphill conflict with a batch to lose. Ultimately, officers who garbage the vaccine volition beryllium removed from the Marine Corps successful 1 of 2 ways. The archetypal would see accepting non-judicial punishment and separation without court-martial, via a committee of inquiry. He considers this enactment “an admittance of guilt of wrongdoing.”

The different enactment would beryllium to garbage non-judicial punishment and look court-martial, which has the imaginable to effect successful a national conviction. “Not lone would my bully sanction beryllium besmirched with this option,” Paul said, “I would beryllium perchance barred from cardinal rights and the quality to enactment successful the precise nine I person defended my full big life.”

After astir 2 decades of work successful the Marine Corps, helium said, “My bequest could extremity successful a national transgression conviction, which should springiness everyone a large woody of pause, considering that I person done thing different than basal steadfast for truth, remained steadfast successful my spiritual convictions, and upheld my work to support the constitution.”

Paul’s bequest extends beyond his ain service. Both helium and his spouse person had a household subordinate service successful each large struggle since the Revolutionary War—a span of implicit 230 years. “We person bled and died for this country,” helium said. “This betrayal would permission a lasting bitter sensation successful our household and would nary uncertainty power our aboriginal families’ decisions whether to unpaid oregon not.”

Leadership Failing Those Who Gave All

Every idiosyncratic who joins the subject takes an oath to “support and support the Constitution of the United States against each enemies, overseas and domestic,” Paul said, adding that it’s an oath that’s taken precise seriously, due to the fact that each work subordinate understands it could see “supporting and defending the Constitution up to, and including, the outgo of one’s ain life.”

He has witnessed “America’s finest” springiness up their lives, making the eventual sacrifice to support their oath. “I’ve had to hide them successful beforehand of their families, [and] I’ve had to prime up my friends assemblage parts.”

While each of these incidents sadden him, helium is arrogant that truthful galore person protected and defended America’s freedoms. “But who defends our rights arsenic subject members?” helium asked. “Civilian and subject enactment is failing us.”

The cardinal state to signifier his religion is being taken away, helium said.

“Where my religion was ever precise aligned with my service, it’s the Marine Corps that has shifted its presumption and has decided that that religion nary longer matters successful favour of governmental expediency.”

Deeper Issues Ahead

Berry, of First Liberty Institute, said, “you don’t person to beryllium a genius to spot determination are threats to America’s nationalist information each astir the world, whether it’s China’s hypersonic weapons, Iran enriching uranium, oregon the Taliban successful Afghanistan, determination are threats to nationalist security.”

A ample portion of the nation’s subject readiness depends connected “an all-volunteer military, the dependable proviso of volunteers that’s acceptable to combat connected behalf of our nation,” helium said. By not allowing spiritual accommodation, helium said “what this is doing is telling a immense transverse conception of America, that is, radical of faith, radical clasp to sincere spiritual beliefs, that you are not invited successful the military.”

To that end, Paul said the Marine Corps’ decisions person small to bash with protecting work members from the virus. “Instead, I would caution radical that the vaccine is being utilized arsenic a mechanics to politically purge the ranks,” helium said.

Many of his chap Marines are leaving the Corps. “There are galore who saw this coming and chose to discontinue oregon extremity their progressive work quietly,” helium said. “Moving ahead, Americans volition beryllium acold little inclined to prime up arms and articulation the subject successful the future.”

According to Paul, the subject is facing a superior recruitment and retention occupation wrong the ranks that relates to mediocre leadership, failures successful Afghanistan, and an unconstitutional bid to vaccinate. He noted “this volition spell down arsenic 1 of the astir reckless decisions ever made, arsenic we are seeing our unit numbers purposely depleted successful the look imaginable great-power conflicts.”

For Paul, the contented goes overmuch deeper than a purging of the ranks. In the years ahead, helium said it could instrumentality a much sinister turn. “What happens erstwhile this caller subject that’s hypercompliant is present fixed different unlawful order—and this clip it’s not a vaccination?” helium asked. “We person agelong prided ourselves arsenic having a Military that volition bash the morally close happening successful the look of adversity, but this goes distant if the motivation backbone is purged from the military.”

“Regardless of who is being purged, possibly the question we should inquire ourselves is what is the existent cost?” helium said. “Military leaders volition importune this is astir readiness, but determination whitethorn beryllium agelong word implications that volition reverberate done history.”

The Epoch Times has reached retired to the Pentagon for comments.

J.M. Phelps

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J.M. Phelps is simply a writer and researcher of some Islamist and Chinese threats.