Navy Vax

Navy leader’s testimony on military vaccine mandates contradicts IG report

By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square –The Undersecretary of the Navy “misrepresented material facts” in his testimony given at a congressional hearing, lawyers representing Navy and Marine service members disciplined for not getting the COVID-19 vaccines over religious objections told The Center Square.

His testimony under oath contradicted a Department of Defense Inspector General report that said the Navy was violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, said.

A federal judge last year chastised the DOD and Marine Corps for refusing to grant religious accommodation requests (RARs), adding it was the court’s responsibility to uphold the law when generals won’t.

At a hearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, Gaetz asked Erik Raven, undersecretary and Chief Operating Officer and Chief Management Officer of the Navy, “Did the Navy send out form letters in response to people’s requests for religious exemptions” from the DOD vaccine mandate.

Raven replied, “I’d have to get back to you on that.”

“This is really important,” Gaetz said. “The law requires an individual assessment of people’s request for a religious exemption, right?”

Raven answered, “The process we followed there was individualized review at multiple levels.”

“You believe there was individualized review?” Gaetz asked.

“Yes sir,” Raven said.

“Well the Inspector General disagrees with you,” he said, referring to a report that RARs weren’t individually reviewed and the average amount of time each was considered was 12 minutes.

“Does 12 minutes seem like a sufficient amount of time to make an individualized on someone’s deeply held religious basis for an exemption?” Gaetz asked. . . .

. . . .Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, who’s representing Navy and Marine service members who faced repercussions for not getting vaccines, told The Center Square, “The total lack of candor and the misrepresentation of material facts is disturbing. The testimony presented to the committee is contradicted by the Inspector General’s report and the documents and sworn testimony presented in our ongoing litigation.”. . . .

. . .  .Gaetz also asked DOD Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros more than once if there was a plan “to reinstate the roughly 8,600 service members across active duty, reserves and the guard back to their point of service?”

Cisneros replied, “The policy is the same that it’s always been. Service members are discharged and they want to come back into the service they can apply.”

“So the DOD has no active plan to do proactive outreach to these individuals and get them back into the military?” Gaetz asked. Cisneros replied, “Our plan is the same as it’s always been,” which Gaetz said meant “no plan.” . . . (read more on Center Square)

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