Federal appeals court sides with Navy SEALs suing over Pentagon’s vaccine mandate

  • On Monday the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Navy’s request to reinstate the U.S. Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement
  •  In November, dozens of U.S. Navy SEALs claimed they were wrongfully denied COVID vaccination exemptions on religious grounds
  • The suit, which lists 35 unnamed service members, argues that that the Defense Department’s mandate violates their First Amendment rights
  • While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95 percent or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000
  • The Navy itself has previously said that it has not granted an exemption to any vaccine in the past seven years
A federal appeals court delivered a blow to Pentagon’s vaccine mandate and denied the Biden Administration’s attempt to reinstate the U.S. Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

On Monday the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Navy’s request to reinstate the U.S. Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement a month after a federal judge in Fort Worth halted the mandate.

‘[Evidence] suggests that the Navy has effectively stacked the deck against even those exemptions supported by Plaintiffs’ immediate commanding officers and military chaplains,’ the three-judge panel said.

While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95 percent or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000

While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95 percent or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000

More than 1.62 million US military service members are vaccinated, according to the DoD

More than 1.62 million US military service members are vaccinated, according to the DoD

In November, dozens of U.S. Navy SEALs claimed they were wrongfully denied COVID vaccination exemptions on religious grounds, and that the Defense Department’s mandate violates their First Amendment rights.

The troops sued the Department of Defense – along with President Joe Biden and top military officials.

The suit, which lists 35 unnamed service members, argues that the Pentagon is overstepping its bounds as a federal body and is infringing upon their constitutional rights, with the Navy requiring them to be fully vaccinated by November 28 – after they have been denied a religious exemption.

In some cases, the lawsuit argues, SEALs are reportedly being threatened and, in a few instances, harassed into complying with the demand – and have also been flat-out denied a religious exemption.

According to the filing, the SEALs behind the suit are all Christian and are pushing back against the mandate because it contradicts ‘their sincerely held religious beliefs.’

The plaintiffs include members of the Navy SEALs and the Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen, a US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician and US Navy Divers, according to court documents.

They filed their lawsuit with the help of the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based Christian legal group that regularly takes on religious liberty cases.

The Navy itself has previously said that it has not granted an exemption to any vaccine in the past seven years

The Navy itself has previously said that it has not granted an exemption to any vaccine in the past seven years

The Army, the US military's largest service with 478,000 active duty soldiers, reported the lowest number of service members seeking a religious exemption - just over 1,700 soldiers - compared with the other three smaller services

The Army, the US military’s largest service with 478,000 active duty soldiers, reported the lowest number of service members seeking a religious exemption – just over 1,700 soldiers – compared with the other three smaller services

Pentagon: COVID vaccine a ‘valid military medical requirement’

‘Events around the world remind us daily that there are those who seek to harm America. Our military should be welcoming service members, not forcing them out because of their religious beliefs,’ Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement following Monday’s ruling.

‘The purge of religious servicemembers is not just devastating to morale, but it harms America’s national security,’ Berry added. ‘It’s time for our military to honor its constitutional obligations and grant religious accommodations for service members with sincere religious objections to the vaccine. We’re grateful the Fifth Circuit denied the Navy’s motion.’

Military branches and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

US Army

Deadline: Dec. 15

Percent vaccinated: 97%

Members dismissed: 3,300 at risk of being fired

US Navy

Deadline: Nov. 28

Percent vaccinated: 97%

Members dismissed: 45 as of last week

US Air Force

Deadline: Nov. 2

Percent vaccinated: 97.5%

Members dismissed: 64, including members in basic training

US Coast Guard

Deadline: Nov. 22

Percent vaccinated: 95.3%, including partially vaccinated

Members dismissed: Unknown

Marine Corps

Deadline: Nov. 28

Percent vaccinated: 96%, including partially vaccinated

Members dismissed: 334

Sources: Individual branches, Washington Post, US Naval Institute

Each military branch set its own deadline after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo in August requiring all service members to be vaccinated.

While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95 percent or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000.

The Army, the US military’s largest service with 478,000 active duty soldiers, reported the lowest number of service members seeking a religious exemption – just over 1,700 soldiers – compared with the other three smaller services.

In comparison, there are more than 4,700 in the Air Force, 3,000 in the Marine Corps and 2,700 in the Navy who are requesting the rarely given religious exemptions, according to data released by the branches in the past week.

None of the requests have yet to be approved.

On December 16, the Marines announced they had fired 103 service members for not getting vaccinated. The Army said it fired six people, including two commanding officers.

In January, US District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction in the suit saying there is ‘no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment’ and that the pandemic doesn’t give the government the license to ‘abrogate those freedoms.’

O’Connor sided with the troops, pointing out that 29 of the 35 service members had their requests for religious exemptions denied, calling the process of obtaining one ‘theater.’

The Navy itself has previously said that it has not granted an exemption to any vaccine in the past seven years.

‘Religious exemptions to the vaccine requirement are virtually non-existent. In the past seven years, the Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine requirement,’ O’Connor wrote.

The first firings from the military’s COVID-19 mandate began in December.

The Marines fired 103 members and the Army fired six, including two commanding officers.

The two Army officers commanded active-duty battalions.

Navy Cmdr. Lucian Kins, the executive officer of the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, became the first naval officer to be fired over vaccine refusal in December.

He reportedly requested a religious exemption to the military’s vaccine requirement, but was denied and appealed the decision.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fischer declined to give the precise reason why Kins was relieved of command, citing privacy concerns.

He did, however, state the reason for the firing was that Anderson lost confidence in Kins’ ability to perform his duties after he failed to obey a lawful order.

Source:  www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10567305/Federal-appeals-court-sides-Navy-SEALs-suing-Pentagons-vaccine-mandate.html

2 thoughts on “Federal appeals court sides with Navy SEALs suing over Pentagon’s vaccine mandate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.