WASHINGTON D.C. – in the footsteps of the U.S. Navy, who recently and quietly rolled back punishments aimed at personnel who had requested exemption from being vaccinated against COVID-19 for religious reasons, the U.S. Marine Corps this week issued new guidance that drops similar penalties against members who had previously refused the jab on theological grounds.
As per new “interim guidance” that was posted online after being signed into effect on September 14, the Marines’ policy towards COVID inoculation was being “amended” immediately, with the changes applying to service members who had been denied religious exemptions and had appealed the decision.
“Marine Corps will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” the guidance says. “Involuntary administrative separation processing of class members for refusing COVID-19 vaccination is suspended.”
“Pause all administrative actions related to the involuntary separation of a class member, regardless of the current status of the separation process (e.g., no orders will be given to receive the vaccine, no counselings will be issued for refusing the vaccine, no administrative separation boards will be conducted, no DD-214s will be issued),” the guidance continues.
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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act referred to in the new guidance is a 1993 United States federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”
The guidance also explained that Marine COVID policy was being changed due to a preliminary injunction being filed on August 18 by a U.S. Federal District Court in Florida that prohibits the military branch from taking “certain actions” against personnel who had applied for religious exemption against vaccination.
Previously, service members who had refused the jab on religious grounds were subject to an array of punitive measures, such as delays of promotions and even involuntary terminations.