Despite other military branches beginning to loosen or pause restrictions on COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests, the Alabama National Guard hasn't received any change in guidance on the issue yet.

According to the Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps is suspending any administrative actions against certain Marines seeking a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine — similar to what the Navy did earlier this year. 

However, nothing much has changed on the issue in the Army and Alabama National Guard.

Sandra Lucas, deputy director of public affairs for the Alabama National Guard, told 1819 News that "at this time, we have not received a change to the guidance provided to us."

On July 1, the U.S. Army announced that the June 30 COVID-19 vaccination deadline for Army Guardsmen and Reserve soldiers had passed and that reserve component soldiers "may not participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit." Over 300 religious exemption requests had been submitted by members of the Alabama Army and Air National Guard as of June, according to a letter sent to President Joe Biden by Gov. Kay Ivey requesting a halt to the deadline.

"I have not heard whether anything has changed regarding the Army or Alabama National Guard," Matt Clark, president of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty and an attorney, told 1819 News. "My guess is they are watching to see what happens with the Navy SEAL case in the Fifth Circuit and the Marine case in the 11th Circuit. However, that's just a guess."

The Alabama Center for Law and Liberty filed an amicus brief last month in defense of a group of Navy SEALs facing discipline or discharge over their religious objections to the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military.

According to the Military Times, the Defense Department's inspector general has concerns that service authorities rushed through COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests, issuing blanket denials without reviewing each case individually, according to a memo to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in June. The letter from acting DoD Inspector General Sean O'Donnell warns Austin that early findings of a review of the waiver process showed "generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military service policies."

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) signed a letter with other House Republicans to Austin last week to "express our grave concern over the effect of the Department of Defense's Covid-19 vaccine mandate on the readiness of our Armed Forces, particularly the U.S. Army."

"Our recruitment for the year … we're 75,000 service members short in recruitment this past year," Dr. Stewart Tankersley, a physician in Montgomery and a retired Colonel in the Alabama National Guard, told 1819 News. "At the same time, they're wanting to kick out 60,000 reserve component soldiers for not getting it. It's insane."

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