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Marines won’t dismiss those rejecting COVID-19 shot on religious grounds

The Marine Corps has quietly dropped a legal campaign challenging those in the ranks who have cited religious objections to getting the COVID-19 vaccination.

A federal district court judge last month issued a preliminary injunction against the service to block the discharge of any Marine who declined to take the vaccine on religious grounds.

The Pentagon had been one of the most aggressive parts of the executive branch in embracing President Biden’s mandate in 2021 that all federal employees get the shot, making it mandatory for service personnel and civilian Defense Department employees and granting just a tiny number of exemptions.

The Navy has already adopted the more lenient policy for those asserting a religious objection.

The website Marine Corps Times reported late last week that the Marines had made the policy shift in an administrative message dated Sept. 13.

“The 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,” the Sept. 13 guidance said.

“Commanders shall pause all administrative actions related to the involuntary separation of a class member, regardless of the current status of the separation process.”

The immediate order could affect some 1,150 Marines who applied for the exemption but were denied, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jay Hernandez told Marine Corps Times.

The judge who agreed to the preliminary injunction noted that just 11 of the 3,733 Marines who refused the vaccine citing religious principles were granted waivers, and said the Corps was likely to lose a legal challenge based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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