Thousands of military service members seeking COVID religious exemptions are still being punished by the Biden administration, according to court documents.
First Liberty Institute and Hacker Stephens LLP filed its opening brief late Tuesday night at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. Navy SEALs v. Biden.
Admiral William Lescher, vice chief of Naval operations, admitted in a deposition there have not been any cases where COVID adversely impacted operations.
Mike Berry, director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, slammed the Pentagon for ignoring the law amid the new CDC guidance and creating an “unnecessary constitutional mess.”
“Dedicated and brave service members are still being punished for requesting religious accommodations, and now, fewer and fewer men and women are joining the military. Today, America is less safe,” Berry said. “It’s past time for the Biden administration to reverse its dangerous mandate and welcome religious Americans who desperately want to serve their country into the military.”
The following is an excerpt from the 90-page brief filed on behalf of the Navy SEALs.
The Navy is fighting to separate from service over 4,000 sailors, including 35 SEALs and Special Warfare operators, simply because those sailors will not compromise their sincere religious beliefs against the COVID-19 vaccination. In doing so, the Navy is fighting a war that the rest of the country knows no longer exists. The COVID-19 virus now is not the same as the virus that circulated in 2020, nor even the dominant strain circulating when Defendants belatedly mandated vaccination nearly a year after it became available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recognizes that natural immunity from COVID-19 infection is just as effective at preventing disease as the vaccination mandated by the Department of Defense, the natural evolution of the virus and the availability of both therapeutics and preventive drugs have significantly lessened the probability for severe cases, and CDC recommendations have been revised accordingly to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals the same. The Navy’s government interest grows weaker by the day as new information becomes available, yet it continues to insist that it must force servicemembers with sincere religious beliefs against COVID-19 vaccination to choose ‘between their job(s) and their jab(s),’ because it is too ‘risky’ to deploy unvaccinated sailors. It clings to outdated science to justify its denial of sincere Religious Accommodation (RA) requests, which it continues to do across the board, even though over 99% of the Navy is already vaccinated.
First Liberty filed the lawsuit in November and in March the Supreme Court blocked a lower court’s order in Texas that would have forced the Navy to stop mandating the COVID vaccine.