A tiny administrative agency in the District of Columbia announced a new policy Tuesday that will likely serve as a model for a whole-of-government push to assemble lists of Americans who object on religious grounds to a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia—a federal independent entity that assists officers in the District of Columbia courts in formulating release recommendations and providing supervision and services to defendants awaiting trial—announced a new records system that will store the names and “personal religious information” of all employees who make “religious accommodation requests for religious exception from the federally mandated vaccination requirement.”
The Navy and Air Force are allegedly issuing predetermined blanket denials of requests for religious exemptions from the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, in violation of federal law and regulations.
Vice Admiral John Nowell, deputy chief of naval operations for manpower, personnel, training, and education, created a 50-step standard operating procedure streamlining the denials of these requests, known as religious accommodation requests (RARs).
The military is required by law to evaluate RARs on an individual basis to ensure due process under the Fifth Amendment and protect service members’ First Amendment right to religious freedom.
An a significant blow to one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates, a federal judge ruled that healthcare workers in New York can apply for religious exemptions from the statewide mandate, according to CNN.
The ruling was made on Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd, with Hurd declaring that the New York State Department of Health is “barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccination going forward, or with the operation of exemptions already granted.”
Guidance reportedly crafted by military attorneys urged Coast Guard chaplains to grill service members on their religious beliefs in attempts to discover whether a service member’s religious exemption is a “ruse,” draft documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
“It is important to provide context in the memo discussing the member’s belief,” the draft documents said. “If they come to the meeting and begin by discussing concerns about safety, politics, etc., note that in the memo. Even if the member eventually states that it is a belief based on religion, note their first expression and how they moved from non-religious beliefs to religious ones.”
The federal government has “no authority” to tell Americans “what they can or cannot believe” when it comes to religious exemptions to vaccinations, the president of non-profit political advocacy group CatholicVote.org told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Thousands of Americans are seeking religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, citing reports that some of the vaccines were developed using aborted fetal cell lines, but pressure from activists, commentators and mandate-minded lawmakers suggests that the religious objections may face more serious inquisition in the coming weeks.