Several Marines who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine told Fox News Digital they are witnessing a "political purge" by the Biden administration that is forcing out the military’s "best and brightest" over deeply held beliefs they say are protected by the First Amendment.
The Marines, who were granted anonymity by Fox so they could speak freely, said there was also a "blanket" denial of religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, with their applications being rejected without consideration.
So far, 169 Marines have been discharged for refusing the vaccine, and thousands more face the same fate after the Department of Defense’s mandate on all active-duty service members went into effect for the Marine Corps on Nov. 28.
Although Marines are permitted to apply for a religious exemption, so far not a single application has been approved, a Marine Corps spokesman told Fox News.
A major with more than 17 years of active service said "there’s something fundamentally wrong at this point with our nation’s leadership. We are facing an unconstitutional edict that I think is very targeted as a political purge, taking out some of the best and brightest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians from the Space Force."
A lieutenant colonel with more than 19 years of active service said the Marine Corps is discharging service members "as fast as they can and as brutally as they can, damaging every Marine as much as they can on the way out.
"The one message I got from the colonel above me was: ‘Tread very carefully, this is political, you will be crushed like an ant.’ And he told me that because he cares about me," the lieutenant colonel said. "Do I want to continue serving in an institution that crushes people for bringing up reasonable points in defending their faith?"
One master sergeant said it seems that "the louder I speak the tighter the screws are turned against me."
The master sergeant added that "when you’re expected to behave a certain way and to obey certain rules and follow certain processes, and then to see on the other end that that’s not a two-way street, that’s a violation of my morals that I can’t stand by and not speak out about."
Regarding the denial of a religious exemption, one chief warrant officer said "this is absolutely a travesty what’s happening. People are getting blanket denials, they’re not addressing the individual concerns or beliefs of Marines who are submitting for religious accommodations, and I think that’s just horribly wrong. I honestly believe that they’re not really reading the packages."
Of the more than 180,000 active-duty Marines, some 5%, or 9,000, are considered unvaccinated by the Corps, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce told Fox News.
However, that number includes service members who are either currently exempt, are waiting for religious exemptions, or are new recruits who have not yet entered into the reporting system, and that not all have necessarily "refused" the vaccine.
The Corps’ most recent weekly newsletter last week said coronavirus is a "readiness" issue, because the "speed with which the disease transmits among individuals has increased risk to our Marines and the Marine Corps’ mission."
The Marine spokesman did not respond to a Fox News question on what effect losing thousands of members might have on Corps readiness.
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