In line with President Joe Biden's wishes to implement sweeping COVID vaccine mandates across the board, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a vaccine requirement for service members in August. A number of service members reacted unfavorably, with some seeking religious exemption through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Now, U.S. military Catholic Archbishop Timothy Broglio is coming to the defense of service members who refuse to comply with COVID vaccine mandates citing religious reasons. "No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience," Archbishop Broglio said in a statement, as reported by Breitbart.
However, the Vatican's doctrinal office has decided that is morally permissible for the Catholic faithful to receive the COVID vaccines but it does not prevent individuals from deciding for themselves if it is morally permissible to take the vaccines or not.
"This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine's moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience," Archbishop Broglio wrote. "It does not."
The military archbishop then cited Saint Paul VI, arguing that each person has the "civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences." Archbishop Broglio explained that even if a person's decision may appear "erroneous or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity." In fact, he argued, the U.S. Supreme Court even ruled that ""religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection."
Archbishop Broglio concluded that denying service members or anyone who decides to refuse the vaccine any religious accommodations, and subjecting them to punitive or adverse personnel actions for their "earnest, conscience-based objections" is a violation of federal law and is "morally reprehensible."
In addition, the military archbishop objected to the use of COVID vaccines from Johnson & Johnson because it was "developed, tested, and is produced, with abortion-derived cell lines," concluding that it is "more problematic" than other vaccines available today. He said that if the J&J vaccine was the only COVID shot available, it would be "morally permissible," but given that there are other COVID jabs such as Pfizer's and Moderna's, the Catholic faithful "is to make known his or her preference for a more morally acceptable treatment."
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott's new executive order banning "any entity" from enforcing COVID vaccine mandates is causing some confusion in federal and private organizations. According to Reuters, Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines, which are both Texas-based, have decided to push forward with their plans to comply with the government's December 8 deadline for federal contractors to have their employees vaccinated.
"Companies recognize they have to comply with one or the other but not both, and the Texas order is more likely to be struck down than the federal order," Steve Cave, an attorney at King & Spalding who specializes in government contracts explained. As per the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause, states are banned from interfering with valid federal laws.