Leaked documents show military plan to grill service members over religious vaccine exemption

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Marie Marguerite Olohan

  • Guidelines allegedly developed by military attorneys urged Coast Guard chaplains to grill service members on their religious beliefs and practices, draft documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
  • “Note any comments made by the member that give the impression that they are using the religious exemption as a ruse to avoid the vaccine,” the guide said.
  • Roger Severino, a senior researcher at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, told DCNF on Thursday that the guidelines were “one of the worst establishment clause violations” he had seen in his lifetime.

Guidelines allegedly developed by military attorneys urged Coast Guard chaplains to grill service members on their religious beliefs in an attempt to find out whether a service member’s religious exemption is a “ruse.” draft documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“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 start by discussing concerns about security, politics, etc., write it down in the note. Even if the member ultimately declares that it is a belief based on religion, note their first expression and how they changed from non-religious beliefs to religious beliefs.

“Note any comments made by the member that give the impression that they are using the religious exemption as a ruse to avoid the vaccine,” the guide continues.

The legal religious freedom organization First Liberty Institute has obtained the documents from Coast Guard chaplains who wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, First Liberty told DCNF. Attorney General Mike Berry said Coast Guard military lawyers produced the guidelines and sent them to the chaplains.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, American employers are required to consider the “sincere” religious beliefs of their employees, including potential religious objections to a vaccine.

“Across the DOD, services require that people who have a religious objection to the vaccine’s mandate, if they submit a request for a religious exemption, undergo a series of what they call interviews with medical providers and chaplains, ”said Berry. in a telephone interview on Thursday.

First Liberty’s attorney general likened the documents to a “modern day Spanish Inquisition”.

“Legally, the only thing that is required of a serviceman is simply to show that he has a sincere religious belief and that whatever the government does places a substantial burden on that religious belief,” Berry said. “So that’s all they have to show. And then after that, the onus is completely on the government to overcome that. “

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to DCNF requests for comment.

“This is one of the worst establishment clause violations I have seen in my life,” Roger Severino, senior researcher at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, told DCNF on Thursday.

Severino, who was the former director of the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said government bureaucrats “don’t have to be the arbiter of religious truth claims for any religion, and even less all religious. “

“These junior college inquisitors make atrocious theologians and their anti-religious freedom agenda is as clear as it is arrogant,” he added.

As part of the draft guideline, chaplains are invited to ask members to describe specifically how they “consistently keep the principles of their faith” in their daily lives and to “put specific acts (or lack thereof) in the memo. service ”.

“Ask if the member is of a particular religious faith,” the project says. “If so, ask if their religious leaders have spoken on the issue and taken a stand one way or the other on the vaccine. If the member is unsure, ask if they would like to explore this issue or discuss it with their religious leaders before proceeding with their request.

The guidelines also provide chaplains with “Table 1,” which contains a “sample” of religious leaders tolerant of COVID-19 vaccination: Judaism, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Island, Evangelical Christianity, Hindu, Orthodox Christianity, and Mormonism.

“If the member indicates that they are from one of the following denominations, consult Table 1 and discuss with them the quotes of the religious leaders mentioned there,” says the guide. “Ask how their beliefs differ from those of religious leaders. Record their response in the memo.

If a serviceman is Catholic, for example, the guidelines suggest that the chaplain refer to the “Catholic Christianity” section of Table 1 and read a statement from the Vatican to the serviceman noting that it is “morally acceptable” to receive the vaccine.

If the service member is a Muslim, advice suggests referring the service member to the “Islam” section of Table 1, which links to a March report of 16 Minnesota imams getting vaccinated on camera “to pass their loud and clear message ”.

“Imam Hassan Ali Mohamud has thought of a passage from the Koran,” Sahan Journal said. “Saving a person’s life is like saving all of humanity, according to the often-quoted passage. Which means it’s easy enough to pretend receiving the vaccine is a religious duty, Hassan said.

If a member does not belong to an organized religion, the guidelines ask the chaplain to ask that member to explain “the underlying tenants and core beliefs of their faith, and how they practice that faith in their lives. daily”.

The guidelines tell chaplains to continue lobbying for more information about the service member’s faith: whether the service member worships with others, whether those with whom the service member worships have been vaccinated, whether the service member wants to discuss vaccinations with fellow vaccinated loyalists, how long has the member practiced their religion, whether the member has sufficiently explored their faith, and more.

“Ask what makes this refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine such an important part of their religion or religious beliefs,” the guide said. “If the member starts talking about security, political or ethical issues as opposed to religious concerns, write it down. Ask how long they have had their current religious beliefs or been a part of their current religious faith.

Thousands of Americans are asking for religious exemptions from vaccination warrants, citing reports that some of the vaccines were developed using aborted fetal cell lines. The guidelines specifically mention this reluctance, telling chaplains to ask members “if they have researched fetal cell development,” and provides a list of questions on vaccine and fetal cell line development.

“If you are requesting an exemption based on the use of stem or fetal cells, ask if the member has taken any other drug developed and tested using fetal cells,” the guide says. “If so, ask what kind. If not, ask them if they have ever taken Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Benadryl or Claritin, all of which were developed from fetal cells.

“Ask them if they will also refrain from any of these drugs and any products that have developed fetal cells at some point,” the guide continues. “Write the answer down in the memo. “

The guidance specifically refers to members who may see an exemption by citing the passage from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20: “Don’t you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not yours; you were bought at a price. So honor God with your bodies.

If a service member refers to this passage, chaplains should ask “what steps they are taking to ensure that other foreign substances are not introduced into the body,” the guide says.

The councils continued, “For members with visible tattoos, ask how they reconcile this act with their beliefs. Ask them if their religion supports altruism and protection of others, or makes sacrifices to help others. If so, ask them if they considered this act to be considered to protect others. “

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines warn that “whether or not a sincere religious belief of a candidate or employee is rarely involved in many types of employment. religious claims of Title VII.

“For example,” the guide states, “with respect to an allegation of dismissal or discriminatory harassment, it is the motivation of the discriminating official, and not the actual beliefs of the person alleging discrimination, that is relevant in determining whether the discrimination that took place was because of religion.

Neither the commission nor the courts should “be charged with deciding whether a person has religious beliefs for the ‘right reasons’,” the guide said, but they can consider whether the individual’s motives or reasons for having this. belief.

An individual would not be seen as insincere in his belief simply because he is not scrupulous in his observance, the guidance notes, but an employee’s credibility could be undermined by behaving “in a manner”. manifestly incompatible with the professed belief ”, if the accommodation of the individual sought would have a“ particularly desirable advantage which is likely to be sought for secular reasons ”, if the timing of the religious objection is suspect, or if the The employer has other reasons to believe that “accommodation is not sought for religious reasons”.

However, none of these factors are final: an individual may practice their faith inconsistently while maintaining sincere beliefs, or an individual may have “renounced sincere religious practice” for fear of discrimination, according to the guidelines. ‘EEOC.

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