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U.S. troops who are Catholic can refuse to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the military’s archbishop said Tuesday.
People can sincerely hold a religious belief “that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience,” Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio said in a statement.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in August ordered military branch heads to draw up COVID-19 vaccine mandates, all of which have since been issued.
Lawyers for clients seeking religious exemptions have told The Epoch Times some of the opposition to the jabs center on their use of aborted fetal cells.
Three vaccines are authorized or approved in the United States. The Johnson & Johnson shot used abortion-derived cell lines in design, production, and laboratory tests, according to an analysis (pdf) of the vaccines from self-described pro-life scientists. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also utilized the cells.
The companies have said the final products do not contain aborted fetal cells.
Broglio said the testing with the cells done for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has long been considered not sinful because of its remote link “with evil.” However, he said the Johnson & Johnson shot is “more problematic”
He also said that each Catholic is bound to follow his conscience, quoting St. Paul VI.
“Accordingly, no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” he wrote, adding later, “The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible.”
Tully Rinckey is representing more than 100 military members in their fight over the vaccine mandate. Sean Timmons, a managing partner and military attorney with the firm, told The Epoch Times he’d seen Broglio’s letter. Clients have gotten similar missives from local priests or bishops in their effort to obtain exemptions.
“The accommodation based on religion is not up to a test of the validity of the religious tenets’ adherence, meaning the Army and Navy can’t say, ‘okay, you’re Catholic therefore you believe a and b, Catholic leadership says the vaccine’s fine, so you’re not really a Catholic.’ That doesn’t affect the way that it works because that would be objective analysis of the contents of religious practice. The military can’t possibly do that. The only thing the military can do is look at it subjectively, ‘is your religious religious beliefs sincere, yes or no.’ If your religious belief is sincere, that’s the only analysis necessary, it doesn’t really matter what the leadership of a religion says,” Timmons said.
Several clients of Tully Rinckey have already secured exemptions while others are working their way through the process. None have been rejected so far.
Asked about the letter, a Department of Defense spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email that each service has put into place processes that let members apply for religious exemptions.
“These exemptions are considered on an individual basis and service members are welcome to apply for religious exemptions,” he said.
The branches did not respond to requests for comment.
The Air Force has the earliest deadline, Nov. 2. Nearly 97 percent of the 335,818 active-duty airmen have received at least one vaccine dose, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told troops during a town hall on Tuesday, when queried about mandate exceptions, that applications are evaluated by senior Army leaders and considered.
Concerns about health and readiness compelled the mandate, she added, asserting that the vaccines are safe and effective.