By Corinne Murdock
The Air Force says there’s a “high chance of disapproval” for COVID-19 vaccination religious exemptions, according to documents obtained by AZ Free News. This predetermination was issued in a BLUF statement – military communications jargon for “bottom line up front” to indicate key points of information.
“In the case of a religious accommodation for the COVID-19 Immunization, there is a high chance of disapproval,” read the BLUF. “Of the five reasons to disapprove a religious accommodation this meets three. Adverse impact on: mission accomplishment, military readiness, [and] the health and safety of the member or unit.”
Accompanying the BLUF was a comprehensive instructional guide on the religious exemption process. Service members must compile a “religious accommodation request package.” In addition to their initial request, service members must include documentation from counseling by their unit commander, military medical provider, and a chaplain. Once those are submitted, a staff judge advocate will submit a written legal review on the case.
All documents compiled in the religious accommodation request package at that point will be handed over to a “Religious Resolution Team” (RRT) for review. RRT members may include the Chaplain Corps, Judge Advocate Generals (JAG), Public Affairs Office, and a medical provider.
The guide also inserted some counterpoints to possible concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine within critical thinking prompts. In response to one question about whether the service member could finish their military commitment without this accommodation, the critical thinking prompt equated the safety and efficacy of other vaccinations proven by years of research and trials to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I have every other vaccination under the sun in my body already, I think I can handle one more,” read the prompt.
The critical thinking prompt also equated concerns about the experimental nature of the COVID-19 vaccine to the annual flu shot.
“If in a year from now the same shot is mandatory, but has full FDA approval would I be willing to take it? (The flu shot has been experimental every year for the past however many I have been in the military,)” read the prompt.
It appears that the Air Force may not be the only branch that may severely restrict religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccinations. A press release from the Army alluded that they were considering religious exemptions based on similar criterias: military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and health and safety.