I for one have had enough and am moving on from this agency that demanded I open the most personal aspects of my life to be subject to a bureaucrat’s judgment. I encourage others who are in a similar position to do the same. An employer who will not respect you is not worthy of your loyalty and sacrifice. It is time for this oppressive all-in-the-name-of-safety charade to end and for policy makers to remember their oaths. We are, after all, citizens, not subjects.
On Jan. 10, the Liberty Counsel reported that out of the more than 21,000 requests submitted by members of the U.S. Armed Forces for a religious exemption from the COVID vaccine requirement, not a single one had been approved. A perfect goose egg. Apparently, active duty service members are no longer afforded the rights granted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Neither, it seems, are civilian federal employees.
I recently returned to government service, following a 23-year military career. In my time working at the USDA Forest Service, I became aware of a handful of colleagues who have requested a religious exemption. So far, I have not heard of a single one that has been approved since submissions began in September 2021. When I say nothing, I mean just that…..zip……zilch……..zero.
Thinking back to my time as a military officer, I recall when the Department of Defense prioritized honoring diversity and seeking to accommodate people with a wide array of lifestyles, worldviews, and religious beliefs. I have served along side Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, agnostics and atheists. And not once did their religious practices or beliefs conflict with their oath to support and defend the constitution. I had always appreciated that the military could bring so many unique religious perspectives together in overwhelming harmony. Diversity of religious beliefs was what they liked to call a force multiplier. My how things have changed.
My recent experience in civilian federal service along with the DoD’s new stance of total intolerance for those who want to make their own health care choices strongly suggests that the federal government’s vaccine exemption request process, which is ostensibly aimed at respecting religious beliefs, is a complete farce.
If federal agencies were sincere about treating everyone with dignity and respect, they would have already processed (and granted) these thousands of religious exemption requests instead of keeping their “valued” employees in a holding pattern for months. The evidence is overwhelming that these agencies are stonewalling these requests, while continuing to bludgeon the requestors into submission with repeated CDC and White House talking points about the one-size-fits-all vaccine solution that has absolutely no hope of curbing the pandemic.
Making it up as they go.
When the vaccine mandate for federal employees was announced in late July 2021, my agency’s leadership quickly tried to assuage rising anxiety by encouraging folks to apply for a “reasonable accommodation” whether religious or medical. No one seemed to be particularly familiar with how the request process worked, but they assured us that there was a process and implied that it was routine. Not to worry, they said.
Those requesting a religious exemption had to submit two relatively simple if not redundant forms: 1) Religious Accommodation Request Self Certification Questionnaire; and 2) Confirmation of Request for Reasonable Accommodation (Religious). The forms ask for some basic biographical information and a brief description and justification of the accommodation being requested. Okay. No big deal. Maybe this would be quick and painless, and we could get back to treating each other like human beings again.
However, about two months after submitting my original request (with no status update), I received an email from HR with a new form attached: Request for a Religious Exception to the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement. Apparently, the previous forms weren’t sufficient for employees to express their succinct, religious objection to the vaccine. The underlying message was clear: “Sorry. Try again. What you gave us wasn’t good enough.”