Marines grant military's first religious exemptions to vaccine mandate

The Marine Corps said Thursday that it has granted the military’s first religious exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In an emailed statement, the Marines said it granted two of the 3,212 requests for religious exemptions that it has processed. The service has received 3,350 religious accommodation requests in total.

Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for the Marines, declined to provide specifics on the two requests due to privacy concerns when asked by The Hill.


“All current exemption requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Each request will be given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request,” the Marines's statement said.

Outside of the Marines, the military has received thousands of requests for religious exemptions from the vaccine, none of which have been approved.

The Navy reported on Wednesday that it had approving none of the over 3,700 religious accommodation requests it received from active-duty service members and reservists. Last week, a Texas federal judge blocked the Navy from taking “any adverse action” against 35 sailors who refuse to get vaccinated for religious reasons.

Separately on Wednesday, the Army reported none of the 2,128 requests it's received for permanent religious exemptions, and has rejected 162 requests.  On Tuesday, the Air Force reported that it has rejected 2,387 accommodation requests, though a separate 2,158 requests are pending.

In the Marine Corps, requests for religious accommodation are reviewed by the lieutenant colonel commander, colonel commander and commanding general before being adjudicated by the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Wood told The Hill.

A three-person board within Manpower and Reserve Affairs reviews each request and then makes a recommendation to the deputy commandant, who then decides whether to approve the request.


If a request is denied, then Marines do have the option to appeal the decision to the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, who personally reviews the case for a final decision.

“At every step, each accommodation request is given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request.  In each case, every reviewer weighs the compelling government interest against the individual’s request and the circumstances of their situation,” Wood said. 

Active-duty Marines had until Nov. 28 to comply with the mandate, while reservists had until Dec. 28 to be in compliance. The service said 351 Marines have been separated for refusing to comply with the mandate. 

Overall, 97 percent of active-duty marines are at least partially vaccinated, while 95 percent are fully vaccinated. Additionally, 87 percent of its reserve component is at least partially vaccinated, while 86 percent are fully inoculated.

Aside from religious exemptions, the Marines are tracking 943 approved administrative or medical exemptions. 

— Updated at 8:07 p.m.