Judge blocks Pentagon from taking 'any adverse action' against sailors who have refused vaccine
Category: News & PoliticsVia: vic-eldred • 5 months ago • 41 comments
By: BY MYCHAEL SCHNELL
A judge on Monday blocked the Pentagon from taking “any adverse action” against Navy sailors who have refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for religious reasons.
A group of 35 Navy Special Warfare service members — including SEALs, special warfare combatant craft crewmen, divers and an explosive ordnance disposal technician — filed a lawsuit challenging the Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Nov. 9, contending that the Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate breached their religious freedom.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas noted in his ruling that the Navy denied at least 29 of the 35 religious accommodation requests. He said of the religious accommodation process, “by all accounts, it is theater,” adding that the branch “merely rubber stamps each denial.”
“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,” wrote O’Connor, who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush.
“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,” he added.
The Pentagon told The Hill that it is studying the decision, referring questions to the Justice Department “as this matter involves litigation.” The Hill reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
The Navy required all active-duty sailors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 28, or else face potential discharge. Last month, the branch announced that it had given commanders guidance to move forward with issuing administrative separations for service members who did not get vaccinated.
Sen. Ted Cruz reacted to the ruling on Twitter, writing “This is a major win!”