Amid a two-month court battle which saw a federal judge side with a group of US Marines over the right to refuse the Covid-19 vaccine based on religious objections, the US Marine Corps has quietly dropped strict punishments for service members who are seeking exemptions.
A Sept. 14 notice reads that the "Marine Corps will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."
The guidance references the temporary order blocking the Marines from taking action against individuals seeking a religious exemption.
"Involuntary administrative separation processing of class members for refusing COVID-19 vaccination is suspended," reads the memo, which directs commanders to "pause all administrative actions related to the involuntary separation of a class member, regardless of the current status of the separation process."
As The Epoch Times Jack Phillips further notes:
Listing several examples, the Marine guidance added that “no orders will be given to receive the vaccine, no counselings will be issued for refusing the vaccine, no administrative separation boards will be conducted,” and no discharges will be issued.
If the Florida judge’s order is vacated or expires, the Marines may still enforce punishment against those who don’t meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, a spokesperson told Fox News. Last year, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin issued an order that mandated vaccinations for all members of the armed service.
“The Marine Corps is aware of the class-wide preliminary injunction issued by a District Court judge for the Middle District of Florida preventing the Marine Corps from enforcing any order to accept the COVID-19 vaccine or administratively separating Marines who refused to receive the COVID vaccine after their religious accommodation appeal was denied,” Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jay Hernandez told the outlet.
In recent months, reports have indicated that every branch of the U.S. military is struggling to find new recruits, triggering warnings from some members of Congress.
Some have flagged the Pentagon’s strict vaccine requirement while others have said it is because of the slow creep of “woke” diversity trainings and mandates into the military. And others say that high U.S. obesity rates may be a contributing factor, and others note that the pay is not adequate.
“We are on the cusp of a military recruiting crisis,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told Politico in July. “When Republicans take control of Congress in a few months,” he added, “averting the recruiting crisis will be a top priority of the Military Personnel Subcommittee.”
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army ranger, told the outlet that the Pentagon should promise more money in the form of “enlistment incentives and bonuses.”