A federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction Monday against President Joe Biden’s military vaccine mandate, delivering a win to dozens of Navy SEALs who sued the Biden administration.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction against Biden’s military mandate prohibiting the Pentagon from forcing 35 Navy SEALs to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The injunction only applies to the servicemen involved in the lawsuit, not to the mandate in general. O’Connor’s ruling says in part:
Our nation asks the men and women in our military to serve, suffer, and sacrifice. But we do not ask them to lay aside their citizenry and give up the very rights they have sworn to protect. Every president since the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has praised the men and women of the military for their bravery and service in protecting the freedoms this country guarantees.
In this case, members of the military seek protection under those very freedoms. Thirty-five Navy Special Warfare servicemembers allege that the military’s mandatory vaccination policy violates their religious freedoms under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater. The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial. 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.
Having considered the briefing, oral argument, relevant facts, and applicable law, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction should be and is hereby GRANTED.
O’Connor’s ruling is a win for the SEALs who brought the lawsuit last month. The SEALs, who have all applied for a religious exemption to the mandate, argued that the Pentagon’s slow response to their requests is a violation of their rights. The Pentagon has yet to approve any request for a religious exemption to its mandate for military members.
Each branch of the military has received thousands of requests for religious exemptions to the military vaccine mandate. While the Pentagon has doled out a handful of denials, it has yet to approve a single request for a religious exemption. The lack of approvals has caused frustration among applicants and, in the case of the SEALs, sparked lawsuits claiming that the Pentagon is violating servicemembers civil rights. As The Daily Wire reported:
The Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate has brought on a series of legal battles and lawsuits from U.S. servicemembers, including from dozens of members of U.S. special forces. Last month, over two dozen Navy SEALs filed suit against the federal government seeking a religious exemption to the mandate.
The SEAL members – each one either Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant – have “sincerely held religious beliefs forbid each of them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for a variety of reasons based upon their Christian faith as revealed through the Holy Bible and prayerful discernment,” the lawsuit says.
“Plaintiffs believe that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that was tested, developed, or produced using aborted fetal cell lines would force them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by causing them to participate in the abortion enterprise, which they believe to be immoral and highly offensive to God,” the suit states.
Each branch has already hit its deadline for its members to receive the vaccine. The Navy and Air Force began dismissing members on the basis of being unvaccinated last month.