Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and multiple of his Republican colleagues introduced legislation protecting Air Force cadets and midshipmen from punishment for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The effort came after the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) announced that unvaccinated seniors would not be commissioned.
“It is outrageous to punish young men and women who want nothing more than to serve their nation,” Rubio said in a press release. “These are the types of ridiculous, unnecessarily punitive measures that discourage patriotic Americans from joining the military. The Academy should stop playing politics and focus on preparing cadets and midshipmen for their future service.”
The Defending Freedom of Conscience for Cadets and Midshipmen Act specifically prohibits cadets and midshipmen from being denied graduation, stops them from being dismissed from their service academy, and prevents cadets who are denied commission due to their unvaccinated status from repayment claims, the press release stated.
The new measure to protect cadets from authoritative vaccine mandates comes after three cadets at USAFA would reportedly not be commissioned for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine.
According to the Associated Press, the academy spokesman Dean Miller said the three cadets will still earn a degree. However, “They will not be commissioned into the United States Air Force as long as they remain unvaccinated.”
Initially, four cadets refused the vaccine, but one agreed to get it, allowing the cadet to graduate and enter the military as an Air Force officer, the outlet further reported.
This is the latest news on the ongoing dispute regarding vaccine mandates and the U.S. military.
Last fall, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo requiring every military member to get vaccinated as soon as the Pfizer vaccine was FDA-approved.
However, the decision stirred up controversy as many bashed the measure as a violation of freedom.
Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson tweeted, “Say NO to vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and ANY violation of your freedoms!”
The National Faith Advisory Board (NFAB), along with 1,000 religious leaders, sent a letter to the defense secretary, urging the Department of Defense to grant religious exemptions for military members.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., is set to introduce a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.