A group of Navy SEALs and other special warfare personnel urge the Supreme Court to reject the Biden administration’s attempt at punishing them for seeking religious exemptions.
Thirty-five elite service members, represented by First Liberty Institute and Hacker Stephens LLP, asked the court Monday to reject an emergency motion from the Biden administration seeking to stay a preliminary injunction that prevents the Department of Defense from punishing them for having religious objections to the Department’s vaccine mandate.
“While judges should not presume to run the military, neither may courts turn a blind eye to violations of the Constitution or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” the letter reads. “And the Navy cannot cloak its desire to punish plaintiffs for requesting religious accommodation in claimed ‘operational’ needs without judicial scrutiny. Allowing blind deference to military preferences, as the Navy urges, would rewrite RFRA. Only Congress may do that. And it would be inappropriate to create new legal doctrine in this procedural posture.”
Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, blasted the DoD mandate.
“Our clients are willing to make tremendous sacrifices to protect their fellow warriors and our freedoms,” Berry said in a statement. “Our hope is that the Supreme Court will reject this punitive action by the Biden administration and respect the religious liberty of our clients. No member of the military should be forced to sacrifice the very rights they fight to protect to be able to serve.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued the preliminary injunction in January, which was upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor said. “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.”
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