The U.S. Marine Corps issued guidance to roll back its strict punishments for service members who are seeking COVID-19 vaccine exemptions.
In guidance posted online on Sept. 14, the “Marine Corps will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
That guidance was changed following a recent Florida federal court order that temporarily blocked the Marines from taking action against individuals who seek a religious exemption. The latest guidance posted by the Marines made reference to that order, which was handed down in August.
“Involuntary administrative separation processing of class members for refusing COVID-19 vaccination is suspended,” the memo also said, while it directs commanders to “pause all administrative actions related to the involuntary separation of a class member, regardless of the current status of the separation process.”
Listing several examples, the Marine guidance added that “no orders will be given to receive the vaccine, no counselings will be issued for refusing the vaccine, no administrative separation boards will be conducted,” and no discharges will be issued.
If the Florida judge’s order is vacated or expires, the Marines may still enforce punishment against those who don’t meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, a spokesperson told Fox News. Last year, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin issued an order that mandated vaccinations for all members of the armed service.
“The Marine Corps is aware of the class-wide preliminary injunction issued by a District Court judge for the Middle District of Florida preventing the Marine Corps from enforcing any order to accept the COVID-19 vaccine or administratively separating Marines who refused to receive the COVID vaccine after their religious accommodation appeal was denied,” Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jay Hernandez told the outlet.
In recent months, reports have indicated that every branch of the U.S. military is struggling to find new recruits, triggering warnings from some members of Congress.
Some have flagged the Pentagon’s strict vaccine requirement while others have said it is because of the slow creep of “woke” diversity trainings and mandates into the military. And others say that high U.S. obesity rates may be a contributing factor, and others note that the pay is not adequate.
“We are on the cusp of a military recruiting crisis,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told Politico in July. “When Republicans take control of Congress in a few months,” he added, “averting the recruiting crisis will be a top priority of the Military Personnel Subcommittee.”
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army ranger, told the outlet that the Pentagon should promise more money in the form of “enlistment incentives and bonuses.”