Senator James Lankford (R-OK) announced a huge victory on Friday he secured to protect the right of religious liberty for our heroes in the Armed Forces. After receiving a commitment from the Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Lloyd Austin that all members who had requested a religious accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine who have been waiting on a response, will now get the answers they have been waiting for and be allowed to return to their duties.
“I have fought for months to be sure the Department of Defense and the service branches did not ignore religious accommodation requests from Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine from the members of our Armed Forces, and today we finally have victory to protect the religious freedoms servicemen and women work to defend and protect every day,” said Lankford. “Service members called my office to tell me their requests for a religious accommodations were falling on deaf ears or flat-out being ignored. But my team and I were not going to let them down, and we did not let this go. Now our heroes are getting the correct process they should have had from the very beginning to live their faith and be able to serve our country.”
Lankford was previously holding DOD nominees until he got an answer on the religious accommodation requests for our military. Lankford already secured an end to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members in this year’s defense bill, but these requests for religious accommodations remain pending and should have never been put off this long. Consideration of religious accommodations is usually routine for the military, and this process obviously did not follow protocols. Lankford has also called for the reinstatement and back-pay for service members who were impacted by Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Almost a year ago, Lankford sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding to know why, despite 19,979 known requests for religious accommodations from the COVID-19 vaccine, the Department had granted nearly zero religious accommodations among the service branches. The letter requested a response by February 1. When he did not receive a timely response, Lankford requested that the Acting Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General Sean O’Donnell conduct an audit of DOD’s COVID-19 vaccine exemption process, and the IG responded 10 days later that an audit would be conducted. Lankford also sent a letter to the Department of Defense calling for immediate action on deplorable living conditions for service members with religious objections to the vaccine.