A U.S. Navy commander who is opposed to the military’s coronavirus vaccine mandate testified in a federal courtroom that he was treated with open hostility by his superior officers for pursuing a religious exemption. Rather than disavow such a climate of antipathy, a U.S. Justice Department lawyer instead asserted that the upper ranks had lost trust in the commander’s judgment due to his decision.
The telling exchange at a Feb. 10 hearing in Tampa sheds a light on the intense pressure sincerely religious Americans who want to serve their country are being made to feel, a burden being exacerbated by blatant distortions about the moral ground held by Christians who object to the jab due to its connection to abortion via fetal cell lines used in the production process.
The Christians ‘Expressed Concern’
The Tampa Bay Times reported on the commander’s courtroom appearance, along with a Marine lieutenant colonel who also cites religious reasons for refusing any of the three COVID-19 vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer.
“The pair testified anonymously, with a judge’s consent, to protect their identities,” the paper wrote. “Both described themselves as practicing Christians who believed that receiving vaccines would introduce impurities into their bodies. Each also expressed concern about fetal cell lines, which are used in the research and development of various vaccines and many common medicines. The military denied each of them a religious exemption to the vaccine requirement. Both could face discharge if they don’t comply.”
Note the subtly devious shading in the Times’ account. The fetal cell line objection is minimalized with the pro-vaccine staple talking point that “many common medicines” are produced via this research procedure. This argument is meaningless to an individual who believes abortion is murder and the harvesting of a murdered human being for research purposes is an abomination. The ubiquity of wrongdoing does not negate its evil in Christian theology. Both military officers testified that they are practicing Christians.
The “common practice” argument is almost always accompanied by an even more mendacious claim: that no major religion in the world opposes vaccines produced by such means. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Its Congregation For the Doctrine of The Faith has specifically stated that Catholics have an absolute right to object to vaccines developed via abortion-related fetal-cell research and that secular authorities must respect this right. This is important to emphasize for it shows that individual practicing Christians do indeed have foundational moral standing for refusing the jab. It is not mere personal whim.
‘Pressured and Verbally Bullied’
The anonymous Naval commander told the Tampa courtroom 17 of the personnel aboard his ship had claimed a religious exemption to receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. “A chaplain investigated each and determined 16 were legitimate,” the Times reports. “He submitted his own religious exemption request in September, but it was denied. The 16 sailors on his ship who also claimed religious exemptions were also denied accommodations.”
In November, he tested positive for the coronavirus. From the Times: “Over nearly two years, the commander said, about 170 to 180 of his ship’s personnel have come down with COVID-19 at some point. None have become seriously ill, he said.” From this point on, the commander says he became a marked man.
Brandi King, an Air Force Reserves lieutenant colonel, shared a similar story with The American Conservative. As soon as King revealed she was seeking a religious exemption to the vaccine “she was pressured and verbally bullied by her superior officers, who told her not to go through with this course of action,” the magazine states.
“There had been at least two weeks of harassment and bullying, as they were trying to get me not to file a religious accommodation request,” King told TAC. “I was basically told that my career would end, that I would get court-martialed, that I would be convicted under UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] Article 92, or Article 15, or all kinds of stuff.”
Critics of the military exemption process say such accounts prove that a heavy-handed culture of compliance is being meted out within the ranks, with no genuine space made for appeals of personal conscience. This is borne out by the Pentagon’s Orwellian wording on religious exemptions, issued in August.
“There is a religious exemption possibility for any mandatory vaccine, and there’s a process that we go through to counsel the individual both from a medical and from a command perspective about using a religious exemption,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby is quoted as saying in a Defense Department news post.
According to this DoD article, “Counseling, [Kirby] said, includes a discussion with both a medical professional and a commander about the risks of not being vaccinated as well as how not being vaccinated might affect deployability, assignments or travel. Requests for religious exemption differ by service.” The press secretary is further quoted as saying, “We take freedom of religion and worship seriously, in the military, it’s one of the things that we sign up to defend and so it’s something that’s done very carefully.” That description of “counseling” looms ominously over the nice words about “freedom of religion” that follow in its aircraft-carrier-size wake.
Kirby made it clear last summer that Christians seeking religious exemptions were to be subjected to therapeutic sessions in which the unpleasant consequences of their actions would be dangled before them. “We have every expectation that once the vaccines are made mandatory, the troops are going to … do the right thing,” Kirby icily adds in the Pentagon dispatch.
“The whole point of doing this is to do the right thing, primarily before God,” an active-duty major, who wished to remain anonymous, told The American Conservative.
Such is the clash.
~ Read more from Joe Schaeffer.