Johnson Introduces Bill to Protect Servicemembers Seeking Religious Exemptions from Biden Administration’s Military COVID Vaccine Mandate
Bill would ensure servicemembers involuntarily discharged based on COVID vaccination status are designated as honorable discharges, and allow servicemembers to seek reinstatement, obtain retirement and benefits, and expunge from their record facts related to involuntary separation
WASHINGTON, June 3, 2022 — House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson (LA-04) today introduced the AMERICANS Act—legislation to protect military servicemembers seeking religious exemptions from the Biden Administration’s military COVID vaccine mandate.
“President Biden’s military vaccine mandate is plainly unconstitutional and clearly unworkable,” Johnson said. “According to the data we have from DOD, only 58 religious-based exemption requests have been granted—out of approximately 22,000 applications. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard have yet to publish any exemption information at all. I’m proud to stand for the religious freedom rights of our servicemembers.”
In August 2021, the Department of Defense issued a directive making COVID vaccination mandatory for all U.S. service members, DOD employees, and DOD contractors.
While the Biden Administration has announced a process to allow personnel to apply for a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine mandate, DOD has been vague in providing guidance to affected personnel and slow to disclose data related to waiver approvals.
The result has been the denial of honorable discharge for individuals who served honorably, as well as the denial of earned retirement pay and benefits.
The AMERICANS Act would modify the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure all discharges based solely on COVID-19 vaccination status are designated as honorable discharges.
The bill would also allow a servicemember who was involuntarily separated from service based on COVID-19 vaccination status to: (1) seek reinstatement; (2) obtain credit for purposes of retirement and benefits for any time between separation and reinstatement; and (3) expunge from his or her record facts related to any involuntary separation. The bill would also direct the Secretary of Defense to make every effort to retain unvaccinated personnel moving forward.
This legislation also requires DOD to submit a report to Congress on religious exemption requests, including how many appeals were submitted and how many were approved.
Congressman Johnson is the Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference, a member of the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and a former constitutional law litigator.