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WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) – A U.S. Navy chaplain was among sailors recently denied religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate by the Department of Defense (DOD).

Speaking to FOX News, the chaplain, who wished to remain anonymous, faces the loss of his retirement benefits after almost 20 years in the Navy.

“It’s a kick in the gut for sure,” he said. “If I lose retirement benefits [by being discharged], that would be a pretty significant burden to me and my family. At the same time, this is a fight worth fighting. I do not think this is a lawful order.”

The Navy evaluates religious exemptions for the jab with a multistep process. The request must be submitted to the commanding officer (CO) along with some forms. Then meetings with medical personnel and an interview with a chaplain is scheduled to determine whether the person making the request is sincere in their beliefs. The final decision to accept the request is made higher up in the chain of command.

According to the chaplain, the rejection of his request was an executive decision. While both the chaplain’s CO and the CO’s boss both recommended the request go through, the request was denied by their superiors.

“I was actually pleasantly surprised,” the chaplain told FOX. “I think the commanders on the ground, many of them see this for what it is, but our hands are tied, and we have a lot of yes men at the top. It’s really bad.”

The chaplain said he received a rejection letter from Vice Admiral John B. Nowell Jr., stating, “Your request for religious accommodation through waiver of immunization request is disapproved.”

“While every Sailor is welcome to express a religion of choice or none at all, our greater mission sometimes requires reasonable restrictions. You have my sincere best wishes for your continued success in your Naval career,” the letter concluded.

The chaplain said the letter was identical to others like it. “You can hold each of these up to the light and they look exactly like everyone else (sic),” he said.

While the Navy has not granted any religious exemptions to the vaccines, three U.S. Marines received religious exemptions last month. However, all three Marines were leaving military service, and the reason why only three requests were granted — while thousands of others have not — has not been disclosed.

“I would have thought that if you grant one, you have to grand everyone, because or else they are picking and choosing which religion is valid and who’s Constitutional rights under the First Amendment will be honored and whose will not (sic),” the chaplain said. “The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy.”

The chaplain speculated that a reason why the requests have not gone through is because of a social experiment. “I honestly think that the push for 100% vaccination has to do with eliminating anything that looks like a control group,” he said. “I think that the military has been a nice little test group, a set of test subjects that really can’t say no.”

The chaplain was denied his request despite a judge ruling last month that a group of Navy SEALS did not have to abide by the jab mandate, saying, “There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment.” Ignoring the ruling, the Navy issued penalties against the SEALS, and is now facing another lawsuit. The Navy discharged 45 sailors last week for refusing the jab and removed a commander for suing for a religious exemption days after the judge ruled in favor of the SEALS.

Liberty Counsel is representing members of all five military branches in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the jab mandate.

LifeSiteNews reached out to the Navy for comment, but has yet to receive a response.