Dear Secretary Austin:
As members of the faith community, we write to express our strong concern about the potential for Navy Seals to be stripped of their religious liberties by not being granted an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
On October 14th, the Navy announced a timeline and “discharge details” for those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. In the announcement, it says that “Sailors seeking an exemption to the vaccine mandate can apply for medical reasons or a religious accommodation.” However, as of October 19th, Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, stated that he has “read hundreds of service members religious exemption requests...and of the hundreds I’ve seen, not a single one has been granted.”
Given your decades of service in the U.S. Army, you are fully cognizant that young men and women are not currently being drafted into active-duty service; instead, they are choosing to sign up to serve to protect our freedoms. Navy Seals put their lives on the line in some of the riskiest and most important operations each year. We should be rewarding their bravery and the bravery of all our men and women in uniform, by not forcing them to choose between sincere religious convictions and staying in the military.
With the current threats we face - whether it be an emboldened al-Qaeda or a rising communist regime in China - losing some of our military’s finest over a vaccine mandate would be a travesty. By not approving legitimate exemptions in a timely manner, you will be threatening the basic liberties of servicemen, increasing the polarization of our armed forces, and potentially risking our national security.
We urge you to grant religious exemptions as soon as possible for every American risking their lives to defend our country. Religious freedom is enshrined in our Constitution and must always be protected.