Marine Corps Grants Religious Exemptions for COVID-19 Vaccination

January 13, 2022Maggie BenZvi
marine corps religious exemptions

A US Marine with 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, prepares to draw a sword at a Command Sponsored Corporals Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, June 17, 2019. US Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Teagan Fredericks.

The Marine Corps has granted religious exemptions for vaccination for the first time in at least seven years. While 351 Marines have been separated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, two out of 3,350 requests for religious accommodation have now been approved, according to a Marine Corps spokesperson.

While that’s only a tiny percentage of the 3,212 requests that have been processed so far, those two exemptions represent a surprising development in what has so far been a blanket denial across the military branches. They appear to be the only two religious exemptions granted across all of the service branches.

Michael Berry, the general counsel for First Liberty Institute, who represents a group of Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare troops who have sued for their right to religious exemptions, is skeptical of the numbers. “Even if it’s true,” Berry told Coffee or Die Magazine, “two out of tens of thousands is still absurd.”

Until today, the entire department of the Navy, including the Marine Corps, has records going back seven years without a single recorded religious exemption. “It’s likely further back than that, if ever, but we can confirm seven years of data,” Marine spokesperson Andrew Wood said.

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Maggie BenZvi
Maggie BenZvi

Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!

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