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A district judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction Monday stopping President Biden’s Department of Defense from punishing military service members seeking religious exemptions.
Dozens of Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel, represented by First Liberty Institute, filed a lawsuit in Nov. 2021 against the Biden administration and the DoD for their refusal to grant religious accommodations to the COVID vaccine mandate.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the order.
“The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater,” O’Connor said. “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial.”
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He added: “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 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
The SEALs, who presently serve at various classified and confidential locations, collectively have more than 350 years of military service, and more than 100 combat deployments. Many were told they could face court-martial or involuntary separation if they don’t get the jab.
Each of their religious accommodation denials appears to be identical, suggesting the Navy is not taking their requests seriously. The Navy also warned some of the plaintiffs that if they sought a religious exemption, the Navy would confiscate their Special Warfare devices—such as the famous SEAL “Trident”—that they proudly wear on their uniforms.
“Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” First Liberty Institute lawyer Mike Berry said in a statement. “Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive. We’re pleased that the court has acted to protect our brave warriors before more damage is done to our national security.”