While US Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has already gone to bat for religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine in the military, the Florida senator is doubling down on the cause and once again defending religious exemptions in the military.
Almost 1 year ago, Senator Scott supported an amicus brief that challenged the US Navy's vaccine mandate which remain controversial until early this year. In the case, US Navy SEALs v Biden, 26 Navy Seals and other Navy service members with religious objections to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for the Navy.
The service members argue that both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment require the federal government to allow exemptions for their religious beliefs, especially with the Navy already allowing medically related exemptions.
Alongside Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and many other GOP Senators and Congressmen, Senator Rick Scott has helped paved the way in the amicus brief that would, "protect their religious freedom from encroachment by the very government they have sworn to protect with their lives."
This week, Senator Rick Scott was joined by Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to announce the Defending Religious Accommodations Act, requiring the Government Accountability Office to audit the military’s current process for evaluating and granting religious exemptions for vaccination requirements.
Senator Scott said, “The military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate has proven disastrous for America’s military readiness and needlessly destroyed the lives and careers of thousands of brave servicemembers. Our brave men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to protect this great country and the thought that their sincere religious concerns are not being handled with fairness and impartiality is infuriating. My bill, the Defending Religious Accommodations Act, will require the Government Accountability Office to immediately launch a full investigation into how requests for religious exemptions are being handled, and force the Biden administration’s appointees at the Pentagon to finally be held accountable."
The Act would cause a title wave of changes including:
- A determination of the reasons for mass denial of religious accommodations relating to COVID-19 within the armed forces;
- An analysis of the handling of medical and administrative requests when compared with the handling of religious accommodation requests relating to COVID-19;
- An analysis of the timeline of when the armed forces mandated servicemembers to take the FDA-approved vaccine and when it was available at military medical facilities;
- An analysis of the impact of the current levels of involuntary discharges on military readiness as compared to the impact COVID-19 had on military readiness;
- An analysis of the extent to which the vaccine mandate is negatively impacting recruiting efforts;
- An analysis of safe options the military could have adopted to retain servicemembers who had concerns about the vaccine; and
- An analysis of any retributions service members experienced related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.