Navy assistant football coach fired after refusing COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons

U.S. Naval Academy midshipman Geoff Blumenfeld kicks an extra point after a Navy touchdown during the 105th Army vs. Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in December 2004. | Department of Defense/Public Domain

The U.S. Naval Academy has fired an assistant football coach for refusing to adhere to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds.

Billy Ray Stutzmann took to his official Twitter account on Monday to announce that he was dismissed by the academy after an unsuccessful attempt at getting a religious exemption to a Naval Academy Athletic Association policy requiring that all coaches and staff be vaccinated against the virus.

“Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy's COVID-19 policy, as it has changed these last few months,” tweeted Stutzmann, who was in his third season on the Navy coaching staff. 

“After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy.”

Stutzmann went on to state that while he stood “firm in my conviction of faith,” he believed that “each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues.”

Last month, the Pentagon announced that it is going to require U.S. military personnel to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September, citing the Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

“Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance, requiring all service members to be vaccinated,” stated Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.

“These efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live.”

Last week, President Joe Biden announced plans for numerous federal emergency rules requiring vaccinations for federal employees, government contractors, many businesses and healthcare workers.

The federal rules would provide some exemptions, excluding employees of the U.S. Postal Service, members of Congress and businesses with fewer than 100 workers.

Biden said that the requirements for being fully vaccinated or providing negative tests on a regular basis were already being implemented by prominent employers like Tysons Food, United Airlines “and even Fox News.”

“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden argued. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.

“What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”

Many elected officials at the state and federal level have vowed to resist the rules. Critics, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, have called the mandates an abuse of the federal government’s power.

“This plan isn’t about public health — this is about government control and taking away personal liberties,” claimed Ricketts. “It is not the role of the federal government to mandate their choices. Nebraska will stand up to President Biden’s overreach, and we will be working with the Attorney General to explore all our options.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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