The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Monday issued a preliminary injunction against President Joe Biden’s federal Covid-19 vaccine mandate, as it pertains to certain Navy SEALs who were seeking religious exemptions.
“Our nation asks the men and women in our military to serve, suffer, and sacrifice. But we do not ask them to lay aside their citizenry and give up the very rights they have sworn to protect. Every president since the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has praised the men and women of the military for their bravery and service in protecting the freedoms this country guarantees,” wrote Judge Reed O’Connor, in the opinion that prevents the Navy from discharging men and women declaring religious exemptions from the Covid-19 vaccine mandate put in place through Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III.
“In this case, members of the military seek protection under those very freedoms. Thirty-five Navy Special Warfare servicemembers allege that the military’s mandatory vaccination policy violates their religious freedoms under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater. The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial. The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exemption to the First Amendment… and there is no military exclusion from our Constitution,” said O’Connor.
The court’s order can be read at this link.
By early November, 99.4% of active-duty Navy servicemembers had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The plaintiffs in this case represent about .6% of the Navy and are of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant branches of Christianity. They object to the vaccine because of the use of aborted fetal cell lines in the development of the shot, the belief that modifying one’s body is an afront to the Creator; receiving direct, divine instruction not to receive the vaccine; and/or opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into their bodies.
“Plaintiffs’ beliefs about the vaccine are undisputedly sincere, and it is not the role of this Court to determine their truthfulness or accuracy,” the judge wrote.
“The opinion issued in this case is a victory for our Constitution, our active-duty military members, and our institutions. It is our responsibility to protect our servicemen and women from this outrageous mandate that was set in place by their own Commander in Chief. No American, especially our service members, should be required to choose between violating their religious beliefs and serving our country,” said Pam Bondi, counsel at America First Policy Institute, who represent the Navy SEALs in this case.
Nine U.S. senators, including Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), along with 38 members of the House of Representatives, filed an amicus brief in U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden.
The 38 House Republicans were led by Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the House Republican Conference chair.
Defense Secretary Austin made Covid vaccines mandatory, allowing for religious exemptions. But non of the thousands of religious exemption request have been granted. Judge O’Connor noted that the exemption is in name only, and does not exist in reality. He said the preliminary injunction is an extraordinary measure, and that the Department of Defense is likely to lose in court.
The ruling is historic in that it allows military members to defy a direct order given by their commander-in-chief.