A U.S. federal judge issued a temporary injunction on Monday to block the Navy from punishing a group of 35 SEALs who requested religious exemptions from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for U.S. service members.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel, represented by the First Liberty Institute, who objected to the COVID-19 jab on the grounds that it would be an “affront to their Creator,” had every right to ask the Department of Defense for an exemption. In exchange, O’Connor ruled that the DOD could not administratively separate or dismiss them for their vaccination status.
“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
The judge, as well as Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute, noted that while dozens of SEALs had asked for permission to circumvent the shot based on the fact that aborted fetal cells were used in the shot production process, “the Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory.”
“It merely rubber stamps each denial,” O’Connor noted.
The judge also noted that the Navy is mostly vaccinated and that a handful of unvaccinated members “cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights.”
“The Plaintiffs’ loss of religious liberties outweighs any forthcoming harm to the Navy. Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights. Fortunately, the future does not look so dire. Nearly 100% of the Navy has been vaccinated,” he said.
“The fact that the government has not granted a single religious exemption from the vaccine mandate shows that the Biden Administration does not care about religious freedom. Instead, this appears to be an attempted ideological purge,” Berry said. “Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values.”