The News-Times

Troops find religious exemption for vaccines unattainab­le

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WASHINGTON — More than 12,000 military service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are seeking religious exemptions, and so far they are having zero success.

That total lack of approvals is creating new tensions within the military, even as the vast majority of the armed forces have gotten vaccinated.

The services, urgently trying to keep the coronaviru­s pandemic in check by getting troops vaccinated, are now besieged with exemption requests they are unlikely to approve. Meanwhile, troops claiming religious reasons for avoiding the shots are perplexed because exemptions are theoretica­lly available, yet seem impossible to obtain.

Caught in the middle are chaplains, who must balance the desire to offer compassion­ate care and guidance to personnel with the need to explain a complicate­d process that may well be futile. They also must assess requests from those who may be using religion as an excuse to avoid a vaccine that, while credited with preventing needless deaths, has become politicall­y charged.

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