Leaked Documents Show Military’s Plan To Grill Service Members Over Religious Vaccine Exemption

by Mary Margaret Olohan

  • Guidance reportedly crafted by military attorneys urged Coast Guard chaplains to grill service members on their religious beliefs and practices, draft documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
  • “Note any comments made by the member that make it appear they are using the religious exemption as a ruse to avoid the vaccine,” the guidance said. 
  • Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Roger Severino told the DCNF Thursday that the guidance is “one of the worst Establishment Clause violations” he has seen in his lifetime. 

Guidance reportedly crafted by military attorneys urged Coast Guard chaplains to grill service members on their religious beliefs in attempts to discover whether a service member’s religious exemption is a “ruse,” draft documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.

“It is important to provide context in the memo discussing the member’s belief,” the draft documents said. “If they come to the meeting and begin by discussing concerns about safety, politics, etc., note that in the memo. Even if the member eventually states that it is a belief based on religion, note their first expression and how they moved from non-religious beliefs to religious ones.”

“Note any comments made by the member that make it appear they are using the religious exemption as a ruse to avoid the vaccine,” the guidance continued.

The legal religious liberty organization First Liberty Institute obtained the documents from Coast Guard chaplains who wish to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, First Liberty told the DCNF. General Counsel Mike Berry said that Coast Guard military attorneys produced the guidance and sent it to the chaplains.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. employers are required to accommodate their employee’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs — including potential religious objections to a vaccine.

“Across the entire DOD the services are requiring people who have a religious objection to the vaccine mandate, if they submit a request for a religious exemption, to undergo a series of what they’re calling interviews with medical providers and chaplains,” Berry said in a Thursday phone interview.

The First Liberty general counsel compared the documents to a “modern day Spanish Inquisition.”

“Legally, the only thing that’s required of a service member is just that they show that they have a sincerely held religious belief and that whatever the government is doing places a substantial burden on that religious belief,” Berry said. “So that’s all they have to show. And then after that, the burden completely shifts to the government to overcome that.”

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the DCNF.

SOURCE


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