(CNN) — The Marine Corps granted two religious exemptions to the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, making it the first and only military branch to allow religious exceptions since the requirement came into effect in August.
In his weekly COVID-19 update, the Marine Corps said it had received 3,350 requests for religious exemptions and processed 3,212 of them. But for the first time, the Marine Corps said it had granted two of the requests. The service provided no additional information as to why these specific requests had been granted.
Each of the services has received several thousand requests for religious exemptions from the military’s vaccine mandate. But until this week, none of those requests have been granted, although the services still have many requests to process.
According to the latest updates, the Navy has received 3,038 religious exemption requests, although the agency does not say how many have been processed. The military has so far received 2,128 requests and rejected 162. The Air Force received 2,387 and rejected 229.
Earlier this week urging why the services had not granted religious waivers, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the services are considering the requests “in good faith.”
“We believe there should be a channel through which men and women of the workforce who believe they have legitimate religious exemptions to search on their behalf,” Kirby said at a news conference Monday.
The Army’s Vaccine Mandate Designed To ensure the readiness of the force;, has become an overt political issue.
Some Republican governors have refused to carry out the mandate for National Guard units because they have the power to reject the federal military mandate.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, one of seven Republican governors challenge the mandate, the Biden administration challenged the claim, arguing that it was “unlawful” for the Pentagon to attempt to override its authority from members of the state guard.
While a governor is the commander in chief of a National Guard unit when not operating under federal orders, the Guard unit must still meet federal military readiness requirements, including medical requirements. In addition, the Pentagon pays for Guard units even when they operate under state command, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has warned that unvaccinated Guard members is not paid.
Abbott’s lawsuit came as a federal judge in Texas last week ruled against the Biden administration’s vaccination requirement for the military in a decision that had purpose about how the Navy’s policy dealt with those seeking religious exemptions from receiving the vaccine.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Navy from taking adverse action against 35 Navy Seals who sued for seeking exemption from the vaccination requirement for religious reasons. The order prevented the Navy from enacting policies that could render those religious opponents non-deployable or disqualify from special operations.
The Pentagon has said it is still considering how it will respond to the decision.
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