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Lamborn introduces legislation regarding Academy students being punished for refusing vaccines

 

Last updated 5/31/2022 at 2:25pm | View PDF

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, Congressman Doug Lamborn introduced the Defending Freedom of Conscience for Cadets and Midshipmen Act. The legislation would protect cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy (West Point), U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy from being punished for their choice not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. USAFA recently announced that unvaccinated seniors would not be commissioned. Cadets and midshipmen who do not commission could be forced to repay tuition, room, and board expenses for their time at the academy. 

Representatives Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Bob Good (VA-05), Bill Posey (FL-08), Thomas Massie (KY-04), Mary Miller (IL-15), Mo Brooks (AL-5), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Diana Harshbarger (TN-01), Matt Rosendale (MT), and Bill Huizenga (MI-02) are original cosponsors. In addition, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (FL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate earlier this week. 

"I am deeply concerned about the decisions being made at the Pentagon that would penalize cadets for choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," Lamborn said. "They are even considering asking them to pay back hundreds of thousands in tuition. These young men and women made the patriotic and selfless decision to apply themselves academically and serve their nation at one of our U.S. Service Academies. It is an honor to stand up for the constitutional rights of these young men and women, and I thank Senator Rubio for his partnership in introducing this legislation. I won't stop fighting to protect those who protect us." 

Specifically, the Defending Freedom of Conscience for Cadets and Midshipmen Act would:

• Clarify that cadets and midshipmen cannot be denied graduation for not being vaccinated against COVID-19;

• Prevent cadets and midshipmen from being dismissed from their service academy as a result of refusing to be vaccinated (i.e. for disciplinary reasons for refusing the order to be vaccinated); and

• Prevent any cadet who is not allowed to commission due to their COVID-19 vaccination status from being subject to repayment claims.

Background

In November 2021, Lamborn and 47 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary Lloyd Austin regarding the administration's vaccine mandate and the negative consequences it will likely have on our military readiness, the defense industrial base, and defense communities around the country. 

Additionally, Lamborn led an amendment to the FY2022 NDAA, requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish uniform standards under which service members may be exempted from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for administrative, religious, and medical (including antibodies).

In January 2022, Lamborn joined 37 House Republicans led by Representative Mike Johnson and 9 Senators led by Senator Ted Cruz in filing an Amicus Brief before the Court in support of 35 Navy service members seeking religious accommodations.

In May,  Lamborn sent a letter to Superintendent of the USAFA, Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, regarding USAFA's handling of COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests submitted by cadets. In the letter, Lamborn addresses his concerns that four cadets scheduled to graduate would have their service unceremoniously ended because of Clark's refusal to grant them religious exemptions to the Department of Defense's COVID-19 vaccination requirement. 

 

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