Lankford Calls Out Biden’s DoD for Denying Military Members Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) slammed President Joe Biden and Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for not responding to a letter he sent in September calling on Austin to protect service members from being forced to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and serving in our nation’s military. Lankford’s response today comes as recent protests at major shipyards have said they will walk out to avoid the mandate, leaving gaps in our national security for skilled workers building destroyers and aircraft carriers and jeopardizing US military readiness.

“It has been 64 days since Secretary Austin ordered all military members to get vaccinated, and 37 days with no response from Secretary Austin about how our service members who have requested medical or religious exemptions will be honored. Day after day, my office keeps hearing from service members in Oklahoma and around the country either that their requests are being denied or that they are being told not to bother. To make matters worse, Biden is still threatening a dishonorable discharge for any service member who refuses to get vaccinated. This is not how we honor the women and men who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving our nation.”

Lankford has been a leader in protecting the right of religious freedom for all, including members of our military. He pushed to ensure that the DoD updated its guidance to align with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, worked to ensure that every branch of the military implemented training on religious liberty, and accommodation for service members and fought for the ability of chaplains to act according to the dictates of their faith.

Lankford introduced the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act with Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS) to prohibit the DoD from giving service members a dishonorable discharge for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. When a member of the military is dishonorably discharged they surrender several rights and benefits including ownership of any sort of firearm or ammunition; access to the GI Bill for further education; VA home loans; VA medical benefits; Military funeral honors; re-enlistment in another military branch.

For several months, Lankford has pushed back on Biden’s vaccine mandates targeting federal employees, contractors, and the military and on the anticipated rule that could impact private businesses that employee more than 100 people. Last week, Lankford tried to force a vote on his Stop Vaccine Mandate Act, which was blocked by Democrats. Lankford introduced the Stop Vaccine Mandates Act to repeal President Biden’s Executive Order that mandates vaccines for federal employees and federal contractors. Lankford has been vocal about President Biden’s Executive Order. He sent a letter to President Biden outlining his concerns with the vaccine mandates and has stood firmly with Oklahoma service members, health care workers, federal employees, and private-sector workers who have chosen so far not to be vaccinated.

Lankford immediately opposed Biden’s vaccine mandate when it was announced in early September. Lankford received the vaccine and continues to encourage Oklahomans to get the vaccine. But he does not believe anyone should be forced to choose between their job and getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lankford penned an op-ed last month on how Biden’s vaccine mandate and insistence that everyone should just “do what he says” looks more like something from the communist Chinese government or Putin’s Russia, not the United States.