The United States Air Force has approved nine requests by airmen for exemptions from the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. These are the first requests the Air Force has approved since the mandate was issued at the end of August.

While its good news that the Air Force seems to have started taking their service members’ religious convictions seriously, the nine approved exemptions are just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of requests that have been submitted.

ABC News notes that in the Air Force alone, over 6,400 airmen have requested a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Nine approved requests out of 6,400 means that the Air Force has approved just 00.14% of them.

And across all service branches, more than 14,000 military members have submitted such requests.

The Marine Corps is the only other branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to approve requests for religious accommodation, and the Corps hasn’t been too generous either. Only three exemption requests have been approved by the Marine Corps, bringing the total approved requests across all branches to just 12.

Neither the Army nor Navy have approved any of their service members requests for religious accommodation from the vaccine mandate.

The mandate has cost hundreds of servicemembers their jobs in the Armed Forces. “The Marine Corps has discharged 469 [troops], the Air Force has discharged 179 and the Navy has discharged 118,” according to ABC News.

“The Department of the Air Force determined the service members’ accommodations could be supported with no impact to mission readiness,” the Air Force said in a statement released Tuesday.

It’s unclear why these nine servicemembers were able to get their requests approved, but the 179 who have been discharged from the Air Force were not.

In the same vein, The Daily Citizen has covered an ongoing legal battle between 35 Navy SEALS and the U.S. Navy over their requests for religious accommodations from the military’s mandate.

Last month, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing the Navy from punishing the 35 SEALs while their lawsuit against the Navy plays out.

The judge was none too kind in his assessment of the Navy’s process for considering religious exemptions from the mandate, calling the accommodations process “theater.”

“The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial. The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” the judge penned.

While it’s good to laud the Air Force for approving nine airmen’s religious accommodations requests, there are still some 14,000 servicemembers whose religious convictions have been tossed aside.

These servicemembers, who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, deserve far more than a theatrical, dismissive process when it comes to the protection of their religious beliefs.

Related articles and resources:

Two Marines Granted First Religious Exemptions in Military to COVID-19 Vaccines

Navy SEALs Win First Legal Battle in Fight for Religious Exemption from COVID Mandate

Resources: Military Issues

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