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Air Force officer faces court-martial over vaccine refusal in apparent ‘discrimination’ of Christians: lawyer

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An Air Force master sergeant who says the COVID-19 vaccine violates his First Amendment rights will likely face a trial by court-martial in what his lawyer describes as the “targeted discrimination” of conservative Christians in the military.Air Force Master Sergeant Vincent White, who has been in active duty for 12 years, said his request and subsequent appeals for a religious exemption to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine was denied, and that he was handed an Article 15 punishment last week for his continued refusal to comply.MARINES SAY THEY’RE BEING ‘CRUSHED’ OVER VACCINE REFUSAL: ‘A POLITICAL PURGE’Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a non-judicial punishment that a service member must accept or else request a trial by court-martial. If a service member accepts Article 15, he or she could face extra duty for up to 45 days, restriction for up to 60 days, an oral reprimand, forfeiture of one-half base pay for two months, and a permanent reduction in rank.
GOP hold a press conference slamming the military vaccine mandate on Thursday, Nov. 4.
(Fox News Kelly Laco)White’s attorney, R. Davis Younts, said his client has submitted his official response to the Air Force refusing the Article 15 punishment. The Air Force had given him a deadline of this Wednesday to accept the Article 15 punishment after denying him an appeal for his religious exemption request.”The ball is in their court to either back down or take him to court-martial,” Younts told Fox News Digital in an interview on Tuesday. “My gut tells me that they’re going to have to go forward [with a court-martial]. I cannot imagine that they would have done this and served my client, as a master sergeant, with an Article 15 and persisted in doing that if they weren’t serious about going to trial.”Younts, who represents 60 military members who have refused the vaccine, said White’s case is different because he has an “outstanding record” and hasn’t violated any other rules besides the vaccine mandate.”He is unique in that his only alleged misconduct, the only thing he’s allegedly done wrong, is refuse the vaccine on religious grounds,” he said. “This is the first case I am aware of where someone is facing the possibility of court-martial or gotten an Article 15 over simply refusing it for religious reasons.”There has also been a debate about what will happen with the thousands of service members who continue to refuse the shot. While they all face separation from the military, a provision added by Republicans to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress passed in December, requires service members discharged for vaccine refusal to receive either an honorable or general discharge.
United States Marines queue to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Hansen on April 28, 2021 in Kin, Japan.
(Carl Court/Getty Images)Younts said the provision means the Air Force is not authorized to issue a dishonorable discharge for White but added that his punishment if found guilty by a court-martial remains unseen.Younts said his clients, including White, who is a “non-denominational Christian,” feel they’re being targeted for political reasons.”My clients absolutely feel that they are being targeted because of their Christian faith, and in particular, a conservative Christian faith that is viewed by military leadership as not consistent with the direction that they want to take the military,” he said.”If you convert to Norse Paganism … and you submit a religious accommodation saying, ‘I need to be able to grow a beard because it’s consistent with my Norse pagan faith,’ then … the default position of the military when it comes to religious accommodation is to say yes unless it is impossible to do so and still carry out the mission,” he continued. “So it’s a very high standard to deny a religious accommodation.””My clients strongly feel that this is targeted discrimination,” he added.White’s wife, Air Force Master Sergeant Shealyn White, who has served more than 16 years, may soon find herself in the same position after the Air Force denied her appeal seeking a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine.”They’ve both reached the status of being senior enlisted, so they’ve had to work hard to get there,” Younts said. “So, it’s been extremely difficult for them, extremely challenging for them and not what they want. They simply want to be able to continue to serve, and they feel like their faith and values and what that brings to them – that’s why they’ve been successful in their careers.”
Soldiers file paperwork before being administered their COVID-19 vaccinations by Army Preventative Medical Services on Sept. 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
(Jon Cherry/Getty Images)The Air Force told Fox News Digital in a statement that it “cannot comment on specifics regarding” an individual’s claims.The Air Force said religious exemption requests “are evaluated on their own merit and the decision authority must consider the compelling government interest in mission accomplishment, which includes military readiness, unit cohesion and the health and safety of both the member and the unit.”CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”Service members who continue to refuse to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after their exemption request/final appeal has been denied or retirement/separation has not been approved will be subject to initiation of administrative discharge proceedings,” the statement continued. “As of April 19, the Air Force has administratively separated 274 active duty Airmen,” it added.



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