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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have taken steps to roll back penalties for service members seeking religious accommodations to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the military amid ongoing lawsuits over the policy.

Fox News reported that a recent filing in the ongoing lawsuit on behalf of Navy SEALs barred from activities such as training or traveling for deployment because they object to the COVID shots reveals that on May 22 the Navy rescinded Trident Order #12, which ordered that “Special Operations Designated Personnel (SEAL and SWCC) refusing to receive recommended vaccines based solely on personal or religious beliefs will still be medically disqualified.”

The Navy will not publicly comment on the ramifications of the move as litigation is ongoing, but attorneys for the SEALs say they did not learn of the reversal until September 1, and are not aware of a new order taking its place.

“Now that the Navy has rescinded this unlawful order, the only reason it won’t allow our SEALs to get back to doing their jobs is because of their religious beliefs,” says Mike Berry, senior counsel and director of military affairs for the group First Liberty, which is representing the SEALs. “America faces many national security threats, and the Navy is suffering a historic recruiting crisis. There’s no good reason to keep these trained and experienced warriors from serving.”

Fox also reported that the Marine Corps posted an interim guidance September 14 that it “will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” the longstanding federal law against government “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

The change comes in response to a federal judge’s August injunction against punishing the Marines, which found no “meaningful increment of harm to national defense likely to result because these marines continue to serve — as they have served — unvaccinated but in accord with other, proven, rigorous, and successful safety protocols.”

The new guidance orders the pausing of any “administrative actions related to the involuntary separation of a class member, regardless of the current status of the separation process,” and forbids vaccination status from being “considered or referenced” in Marines’ fitness reports or performance evaluations.

Many religious and pro-life Americans have moral objections to knowingly taking any product tainted by abortion in any way, as even outlets supportive of the shots, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal Science and the left-wing “fact-checking” website Snopes, have acknowledged is the case with the COVID-19 vaccines currently in widespread use.

According to a detailed overview by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson all used aborted fetal cells during their vaccines’ testing phase; and Johnson & Johnson also used the cells during the design & development and production phases.

Last August, at the direction of President Joe Biden, Austin ordered the secretaries of all military branches to “immediately begin full [COVID] vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces” and “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.” The majority of service members complied, but tens of thousands remain unvaccinated, with many seeking exemptions.

In the Army, the approval rate for religious exemptions so far stands at just one percent, and the approval rate for medical exemptions is only slightly higher at three percent. By contrast, in December the military began discharging soldiers for refusing the shots. The discharges have prompted legal challenges that have so far been neglected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

These mass purges of qualified fighting men and women threaten soldier and pilot shortages in the tens of thousands, which only adds to broader problems of military readiness, troop morale, and public confidence.

During a Pentagon press briefing in April on the Army’s budget for Fiscal Year 2023, Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo announced the Army had “proactively made a decision to temporarily reduce our end strength from 485,000 soldiers to 476,000 in FY ’22, and 473,000 in FY ’23.” Military Times reported at the time that this “could leave the service at its smallest size since 1940, when it had just over 269,000 troops.”

While defenders of vaccine mandates are quick to stress that the military has long required soldiers to vaccinate against a range of diseases due to the harsh and exotic locales soldiers are sent to for extended periods of time and the close quarters they typically share with one another, previous vaccines were typically subjected to far more evaluation and development time before being put into widespread use than the COVID shots received during their accelerated clinical trials under former President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, which has also given rise to concerns about their safety.

In March, it was found that 11,289 cases of pericarditis/myocarditis after COVID vaccination were reported to the U.S. government’s federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) between January 1 and February 25, which was already 47% of the 24,177 reports for the same submitted in all of 2021. An April study out of Israel indicates that COVID infection alone cannot account for such cases, despite claims to the contrary.

COVID shot defenders claim that VAERS offers an exaggerated view of a vaccine’s potential risks, as anyone can submit a report without vetting it, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention researchers have acknowledged “high verification rate of reports of myocarditis to VAERS after mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccination,” leading to the conclusion that “under-reporting is more likely” than over-reporting.

Further, VAERS is not the only data source indicating cause for concern. Data from the Pentagon’s Defense Medical Epidemiology Database (DMED) has been similarly alarming, showing that 2021 saw drastic spikes in a variety of diagnoses for serious medical issues over the previous five-year average, including hypertension (2,181%), neurological disorders (1,048%), multiple sclerosis (680%), Guillain-Barre syndrome (551%), breast cancer, (487%), female infertility (472%), pulmonary embolism (468%), migraines (452%), ovarian dysfunction (437%), testicular cancer (369%), and tachycardia (302%).

U.S. service members facing medical coercion over the COVID-19 shots or denied effective treatment can apply for Medical Freedom Fund Grants with the medical freedom nonprofit Truth for Health Foundation by clicking here.