Forced by Congress against his will, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has rescinded the COVID-19 shot mandate for all military service members. The action comes after Joe Biden—who strongly opposed repealing the mandate—signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 23, 2022.
Section 525 of the NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to rescind the mandate that members of the U.S. Armed Forces receive the COVID-19 shots. Sec. Austin issued a memorandum on August 24, 2021, directing all service members to receive the COVID shot.
Sec. Austin is not backing down from his support of the mandate wherein he and Joe Biden tried to force every service member to receive the shots. Multiple courts have ruled that the DOD and the various military branches violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by denying requests for religious accommodation.
The Public Affairs Guidance memorandum issued from the Department of Defense states that the Secretary “stands by his decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccination in August 2021.”
The DOD memo states that “Secretary Austin continues to encourage all of our Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure the readiness of our Total Force.”
The DOD “will continue to encourage all personnel and family members to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters.”
The Secretary has been clear in his support for maintaining the COVID-19 vaccination mandate; however, the Department will fully comply with the NDAA.
The DOD memo falsely states, “The COVID-19 vaccines were developed using a range of methods, and are now widely available to Service members to provide options for individuals with medical or religious concerns.” Every option used aborted fetal cells in their testing and/or development (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax). In addition to aborted fetal cells, many religious requesters objected to the experimental mRNA shots of Pfizer and Moderna. The DOD continues to misrepresent the facts and has continually violated the law.
The DOD memo continues with misrepresentations. According to the DOD memo: “As of December 1, 2022, the Military Services reported that approximately 13,000 Active Duty and 6,000 Reserve Component religious accommodation requests have been adjudicated, with approval rates across all Components as listed:
• Army: 6.04 percent
• Navy: 1.02 percent
• Air Force and Space Force: 2.31 percent
• Marine Corps: 0.52 percent
“Approximately 5,000 Active Duty and 12,500 Reserve Component religious accommodation requests are still pending adjudication across all Military Departments.”
The information submitted to the courts contradicts the above numbers. In fact, while medical exemptions have been granted, no religious exemptions have been granted except for a handful that were already been processed to leave the military. No military member who intends to remain in the service has received a religious accommodation.
The DOD memo also has a FAQ section, which includes the following:
Q: What happens to adverse actions in military personnel records for current or former Service members who refused to be vaccinated?
A: Uniformed Code of Military Justice actions remain in the Service member’s Official Military Personnel File.
Q: Will DoD still continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccination and boosters at its medical facilities?
A: Yes, COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated bivalent booster, will continue to be widely available at DoD military medical treatment facilities. Individuals with a religious concern about a specific vaccine should speak to their health care provider to receive a vaccine that meets their sincerely held beliefs, and the military medical treatment facility will ensure that individual receives that vaccine.
Q: What if there is another big wave of COVID or a new, dangerous strain emerges? Could the COVID-19 vaccination requirement be reinstated?
A: Current and changing public health conditions will inform how the Department handles COVID-19 vaccination for Service members. We will use the best data available to us in making these decisions. The health and safety of the Force always comes first in making these decisions.
Q: Are all other vaccination requirements still in place? What about the flu shot?
A: All other vaccination requirements are still in effect.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said: “While we are pleased that Joe Biden’s unlawful and abusive COVID shot mandate will be rescinded, this begrudging reversal under pressure by Congress is not enough. The FAQs in the memo reveal that the service members who applied for religious accommodation requests will continue to have adverse actions in their personnel files. The Department of Defense and the military branches have taken the position that any service member who requested a religious accommodation request was disrupting good order and discipline. Astoundingly, those who defend the Constitution and the laws of the land are considered insubordinate when they request that the laws for which they pledge their lives be upheld. This is the twisted world under the Biden administration. Our legal case will continue because without the injunctions, service members will continue to face retaliation for requesting a religious accommodation. Service members who have been loyal to the country and faithful to their religious convictions have suffered greatly under this mandate, and we will continue to seek justice for them.”