COLORADO SPRINGS — Congressman Doug Lamborn sent a letter to Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, Lieutenant General Richard Clark, regarding USAFA’s handling of COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests submitted by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets.
“I was extremely disappointed to hear that the United States Air Force Academy is planning to deny these four cadets the opportunity to graduate and serve our nation because of their request to uphold their tightly held religious beliefs,” said Congressman Lamborn. “During a time when our military is facing serious recruitment and retention issues… I hope that the leadership at USAFA reconsiders this unconstitional mandate.”
In the letter, Congressman Lamborn stated, “These brave cadets who have been placed in your charge are being presented with an impossible choice: get vaccinated in violation of their religious beliefs, elect to voluntarily resign even though they aspire to service, or face legal action for disobeying a lawful order from a military that does not value their commitment. Not only will they not commission into the United States military, but they will not graduate despite meeting all requirements they agreed to when they entered the U.S. Air Force Academy four years ago. Furthermore, they may even be forced to pay back the value of an education for which they will not even receive a degree, placing an unexpected financial burden as much as $200,000 or more on each cadet.”
In the letter, Congressman Lamborn requested the following information:
- A copy of all written materials, policies, guidelines, directives, notices, and any other materials that explains the academy’s current COVID-19 vaccine policy and the manner in which an individual is able to seek an exemption from the mandate.
- A copy of all written materials, guidelines, directives, notices, and communications related to COVID-19 vaccinations received by the academy from the White House or the Department of Defense.
- The total number of cadets that have requested COVID-19 vaccine exemptions to date and a breakdown of how many of those requests have been for medical reasons and how many have been for sincerely held religious beliefs.
- The number of COVID-19 vaccine exemptions granted by USAFA to cadets.
- The total number of unvaccinated cadets that are currently enrolled in the academy (and any other program or institution under your supervision).
- What is the rationale for applying such strict penalties on cadets, while counterparts at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy have elected to allow their seniors to graduate while their exemption cases are pending?
- Will the four cadets in question receive degrees for the coursework they have completed at the U.S. Air Force Academy?
- Are the cadets able to appeal this decision, or do they need to resort to legal recourse in order to have their degrees and military status reinstated?
Congressman Lamborn demanded that a response be provided no later than May 30.
In November, Congressman Lamborn and 47 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin regarding the administration’s vaccine mandate and the negative consequences it would have on military readiness, the defense industrial base and defense communities around the country.
In January, Congressman Lamborn joined 37 House Republicans led by Representative Mike Johnson and 9 Senators led by Senator Ted Cruz in filing an Amicus Brief before the Court in support of 35 Navy service members seeking religious accommodations.
Additionally, Congressman Lamborn led an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish uniform standards under which service members may be exempted from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for administrative, religious and medical reasons.