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December 01, 2022 | In The News

Naval Academy Withholding Diplomas from Unvaccinated Midshipmen, Lawmakers Say

Representative Greg Steube (R., Fla.) blasted the U.S. Naval Academy on Thursday after one of his constituents claimed she has been told she needs a Covid-19 vaccine to graduate.

“Think about spending four years of your life in college and then not even being able to get a degree for the work that you’ve done,” Steube said during an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday. “This is a young woman who wants to serve her country and all because she doesn’t want to take the COVID vaccine based on religious exemptions that are being refused by this administration and the DOD.” 

The U.S. Naval Academy said in a statement to National Review: “There have been no midshipmen separated from the United States Naval Academy, nor denied a commission, for declining the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Steube led a group of lawmakers in writing a letter to Naval Vice Admiral Sean Buck on Tuesday demanding answers about the student’s claim. Lawmakers argued in the letter that withholding diplomas from qualified midshipmen will hurt military readiness.

Steube said he believes the policy goes “all the way to the top,” adding, “It’s got to be Secretary Austin. It’s got to be Biden forcing these vaccine mandates on our military service members and then denying their ability under religious exemptions not to take it.”

The lawmakers demanded answers to several questions, including how many Covid-19 vaccine religious exemption requests were made by USNA midshipmen and how many of the exemptions were granted.

“There are a handful of midshipmen who have filed religious exemption requests to the COVID-19 vaccine,” the statement added.

“Denying diplomas to otherwise qualified Midshipmen based solely on COVID-19 vaccination status would not only be a waste of our country’s four-year investment in Midshipmen who are eager to serve our nation, but could disrupt military readiness in a year that every branch had trouble recruiting. The U.S. Naval Academy must provide full transparency of their process to deny diplomas due to the absurd COVID-19 vaccination mandate, including details of cases where Midshipmen’s religious exemption requests were also denied,” Steube said in a statement on Wednesday.

A class-action lawsuit that has stopped the Navy from separating unvaccinated service members seeking religious accommodations is winding its way through the courts after a judge first issued a preliminary injunction in March 2022.