(PresidentialHill.com)- The inspector general at the Department of Defense has sent an alert over to the secretary of defense that the DOD has been engaging in what are known as blanket denials of religious accommodation requests, or RARs, for members of the military who were seeking an exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
If this were found to be true, it would be in violation of federal law.
In the memo sent to the secretary of defense, the acting inspector general said there were “potential noncompliance with standards for reviewing and documenting the denial of religious accommodation requests of Service Members.”
Sean O’Donnell, the inspector general, further wrote that there were “dozens of complaints” he received regarding these denied RARs. As he wrote:
“We have found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individual assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies.”
This memo was originally sent to the secretary of defense back in June. However, it wasn’t forward onto the secretaries of each of the military services as well as the general counsel for the DoD until September 2 — almost three months later.
As the inspector general’s office further stated:
“Additionally, the volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning. The appeal authorities of the Services we reviewed indicated that an average of 50 denials per day were processed over a 90-day period.
“Assuming a 10-hour work day with no breaks or attention to other matters, the average review period was about 12 minutes for each package. Such a review period seems insufficient to process each request in an individualized manner and still perform the duties required of their position.”
Many service members have filed lawsuits against the DoD over their denied RARs in the past. One of the main arguments that their lawyers have used is that these denials were predetermined and identical in almost every case — and that is contrary to the assessment they’re supposed to get on an individual basis.
- Davis Younts, an attorney who’s representing multiple military members who received these denials, responded:
“The Inspector General is now confirming what my clients and I have known for months. The DoD has been issuing blanket denials of religious accommodation requests from the beginning as part of a process designed to result in denials. It is our hope that the Department of Defense will take this finding, change course and begin to respect the religious and constitutional rights of service members.”
Younts was given a copy of the memo in question from the inspector general on Tuesday — through a whistleblower.
He then commented that:
“[It is] deeply troubling that the Secretary of Defense did not act on this information until September 2 of 2022. In the intervening months, hundreds of military members who submitted religious accommodation requests were wrongfully discharged.
“This document is further evidence that the military has and continues to discriminate against my clients because of their faith.”