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Marine Corps removes harsh COVID vax penalties for religious accommodations


A new administrative order issued by the Marine Corps has temporarily paused any punishments for Marines who request a religious exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

The order, which was signed and posted Wednesday, directs commanders within the Marine Corps to halt all administrative actions against Marines, no matter the current stage of the separation process.

The administrative order stated that a U.S. Federal District Court in Florida issued a court order on Aug. 18 that prohibited the Corps from taking “certain actions” against service members seeking religious exemption.

Leathernecks who assert their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will no longer be punished for their refusal to get vaxxed.

Marines standing in formation.
Though this order stands, it is only temporary and Marines can still face separation if the order is changed or voided.
Getty Images

The administrative order also states that a Marine’s vaccination status cannot be used against them in fitness reports or other performance evaluations.

For Marines seeking promotions but were unable to rank up because of the vaccination policy, the new order brings updates but they vary for officers and enlisted personnel.

Though a Florida court has issued this order, if the order is revoked for any reason, Marines can still be subjected to separation for their refusal to take the vaccine.

More than 3,000 troops have been involuntarily separated from the military for their refusal to get the vaccine for various reasons. The Marine Corps removed the most, axing 1,968 from their ranks, the Military Times reported in April.

The discharge status of troops who have been pushed out of the military varies.

About 70% of the troops separated across the military have received general discharges under honorable conditions, securing most of their veteran benefits. The remaining troops who were separated received honorable discharges.

The reasoning for the difference in discharge status is unknown.

The Department of Defense has reported that more than 1.9 million troops across the armed forces have been vaccinated, with slightly more than 28,000 partially vaccinated as of Sept. 14.

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