Cruz demands religious freedom for service academy members who wish to avoid vaccination

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has made public a letter he wrote to the heads of each of the United States’ military academies, all of which the senator says have been too rigid in the handling of requests for religious exemptions to the military’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

In a letter to Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark of the United States Air Force Academy, Gen. Darryl A. Williams of United States Military Academy, and Vice Admiral Sean Buck of the United States Naval Academy, Cruz complained that no academy is giving due consideration to students seeking exemptions.

“In your current capacity, you have taken on the responsibility to lead one of our nation’s finest institutions and to help mold the character and intellect of America’s next generation of military officers,” Cruz wrote. “As part of your responsibility, you have a sacred duty to instill in the young men and women enrolled in your academy not only a proper respect for the chain of command in our civilian-led military but also to ensure that officers are able to deduce right from wrong when given an order. Any institutional failure to follow our nation’s civil rights laws, including those protecting religious views, undermines the core objective of your institution.”

Cruz requested the academy administrators provide Congress with their schools’ COVID-19 polices and guidelines, copies of each academy’s communications with the White House, and data on total exemptions requested versus those granted, as well as total number of unvaccinated persons at the school.

At present, and following a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last year, all military personnel are required to be vaccinated barring the granting of an exemption. Currently, the Naval Academy, West Point, and Air Force Academy require all cadets and midshipmen to be vaccinated. However, all three academies grant visitors and potential students leniency.

Cruz, long an outspoken opponent of mandates, said he’d received numerous complaints from constituents about denied exemption requests. The senator also wondered aloud if the academies were compliant with federal law.

“[I] have repeatedly raised concerns about the manner in which this directive has been implemented, not only as affects military personnel generally but also as to the impact on individuals enrolled in our nation’s military institutions,” Cruz wrote. “I am concerned that our nation’s military academies have not given appropriate deference to religious and health exemption requests consistent with laws duly enacted by Congress, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other civil rights laws. I am also deeply troubled with reports concerning the manner in which our nation’s service academies have implemented vaccine-related policies, leading to requests for exemption being summarily denied.”

As of this writing, neither the services academies nor the Biden Administration had publicly responded to Cruz’s letter.