Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., has introduced a bill to protect service members seeking religious exemptions from President Joe Biden's military COVID-19 mandate.
Under the bill, service members who are involuntary discharged based on their COVID-19 vaccine status would have their status designated as honorably discharged.
It would also permit them to seek reinstatement and allow them to obtain retirement and benefits.
"President [Joe] Biden's military vaccine mandate is plainly unconstitutional and clearly unworkable," Johnson said. "According to the data we have from DOD [Department of Defense], only 58 religious-based exemption requests have been granted — out of approximately 22,000 applications. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard have yet to publish any exemption information at all. I'm proud to stand for the religious freedom rights of our servicemembers."
Johnson noted that while the Biden administration has announced a process to permit military personnel to apply for medical or religious exemptions from the mandate, the Defense Department has been "vague" in providing guidance and slow to reveal data on waiver approvals.
"The result has been the denial of honorable discharges for individuals who served honorably, as well as the denial of earned retirement pay and benefits," Johnson's office said in a statement.
The bill would also require the Defense Department to submit a report to Congress on religious exemption requests.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is introducing a bill that would bar cadets and midshipmen from five service academies from being punished for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The move comes as the Navy nears 1,000 separations due to COVID-19 vaccine refusals. Members of the military must be vaccinated under the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for service members.
Jeffrey Rodack, who has nearly a half century in news as a senior editor and city editor for national and local publications, has covered politics for Newsmax for nearly seven years.
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