The Texas court ruled that the U.S. Navy punishes servicemen seeking religious exemptions for violating President Joe Biden’s vaccine regulations.
District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary order on Monday to prevent the Navy and Department of Defense from enforcing their vaccine regulations.
“In this case, naval servicemen are trying to justify the freedom they sacrificed for protection,” The judge wrote in his decision. “The Covid-19 pandemic did not provide the government with permission to revoke these freedoms. There is no Covid-19 exception for the First Amendment. Our Constitution does not exclude the military.”
The judge is taking action against a lawsuit filed by 35 soldiers, including SEALs and navy crews and divers who want to refuse vaccination on religious grounds. According to court documents, the plaintiffs are Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Protestants.
Plaintiffs face disqualification due to refusal, which will make them “Permanently not deployable,” The judge wrote.
The judge pointed out that by the beginning of November, 99.4% of active naval service personnel had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The First Liberty Institute, the legal organization representing the plaintiffs, welcomed the order. “Punishing the SEALs merely requesting religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive,” The organization’s general counsel, Michael Berry, said in a statement to the media.
The Navy did not comment on the matter. “We are aware of the ban and are reviewing it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
President Joe Biden’s broader vaccine authorization for companies with more than 100 employees is currently facing a challenge from the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hold a special hearing on the matter on Friday.
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