COLORADO SPRINGS — Congressman Doug Lamborn introduced an amendment that would revise the existing procedure for vaccine-related religious exemption appeals for service members on Wednesday.
The amendment would replace the Surgeon General as the final authority on religious exemptions with the Chief of Chaplains. The change would make the process for COVID-19 religious exemptions consistent with that of other religious exemption cases. It would also elevate the role of chaplains within the armed services.
In a press release, Lamborn cited four cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy who were told just days before graduation that their religious exemption waivers were denied. The result of this was denial of commission, withholding of their diplomas, and potential recoupment of tuition.
“The futures of these cadets are still changed forever, ” Lamborn said.
As of Jun 2022, the United States Air Force has approved 118 out of 13,494 religious exemption requests, according to Lamborn. The Army approved its first religious exemption in March.
“The small number of religious exemptions that have been granted proves that there is something wrong in this process,” said Lamborn. “Not only are individuals being denied these exemptions, but cadets and service members who request accommodations are being unjustly punished.”