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Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Air Force Cadets, Midshipmen From Being Punished for Not Receiving Covid-19 Vaccine

May 25, 2022 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and colleagues 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, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy from being punished for their choice to not 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. Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Rick Scott (R-FL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Steve Daines (R-MT) are original cosponsors. U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It is outrageous to punish young men and women who want nothing more than to serve their nation,” Rubio said. “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.”
“Joe Biden’s outrageous and plain mean-spirited vaccine tyranny knows no bounds – now punishing aspiring heroes who have earned the honor of joining the officer ranks,” Marshall said. “I’m thankful to Senator Rubio for leading this effort to protect these patriotic Americans.” 

“The decision to end promising military careers solely based on a COVID vaccine seems punitive and another example of clumsy government overreach,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The cadets and midshipmen at our service academies are among the brightest in the country, and they shouldn’t be dismissed so flippantly.”

“It is shameful to punish these cadets and diminish their commitment to serve our nation over a single personal health decision,” Scott said. “I am proud to join Senator Rubio on this common sense measure to protect the cadets and midshipmen of our nation’s service academies.”

“Forcing our brave young men and women preparing to serve our nation to violate their consciences and religious beliefs is ridiculous and completely un-American. Military academies should be focused on training their cadets and midshipmen, not imposing top-down COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Cramer said.

“The dedicated cadets and midshipmen at our military service academies deserve nothing short of our admiration and support for their decision to serve their country at a young age,” Lamborn said. “It is unfortunate that political leadership in the U.S. Department of Defense is seeking to penalize these brave Americans by preventing them from graduating or serving in the military. They are even considering asking them to pay back hundreds of thousands in tuition. It is an honor to stand up for the constitutional rights of these young men and women, and I look forward to introducing this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
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.