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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The court was asked to block the punishment of all members of the Navy seeking exemption from the mandate on religious beliefs

A federal court that blocked punishing 35 Navy personnel seeking religious exemptions from the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate should expand the ruling to include any naval personnel seeking an exemption, lawyers said in a statement Monday. .

Complaint in US Navy SEALS 1-3 et. al v Lloyd Austin et al was changed to class action.

That means the judge presiding over the case could expand the mandate block to include nearly 4,000 military or Navy reservists seeking religious exemptions.

“Our clients are fighting bravely against the vaccination mandate, but no member of the military should be disciplined or penalized for following their faith,” said Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, who represents naval personnel in the case. statement.

“The fact that the military continues to show hostility towards anyone expressing religious opposition to the vaccination mandate shows that the Biden administration does not care about religious freedom. The lawsuit aims to protect as many members of the military as possible from further punishment. We must put an end to this before more damage is done to our national security,” he added.

The Navy has not approved a single religious exemption, and only two have been approved by the entire US Army. According to the plaintiffs, this is contrary to federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

U.S. Judge Reed O’Connor, George W. Bush’s nominee, agreed, ruling last month that the Navy provides a religious accommodation application process “but by all accounts, it’s theater.”

“Recently, the Navy has not granted a religious exemption for any vaccine. He just churns out every rejection,” he added.

A Navy spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email shortly after the ruling that the unit “supports and respects the beliefs and religious practices of our sailors.”

“No immunization is balanced by operational readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety,” the spokesman said. “When it interferes with a member’s right to practice their faith in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, the Navy works with the member to find ways to accommodate the religious practice that will be the least burdensome for the member. All religious accommodation requests, including the COVID vaccination mandate, are processed in the same way.”

As of January 19, 22 navies have been discharged for refusing to vaccinate.

The branch has granted only one request for religious accommodation since early 2015, according to documents filed in another case challenging the military mandate imposed by Secretary of Defense Austin with the backing of President Joe Biden.

The amended complaint comes days after Biden administration lawyers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to overturn O’Connor’s preliminary injunction that blocks punishment against 35 Navy members as the case is decided by the courts.

The administration has yet to present its arguments as to why the injunction should be lifted. According to the protocol, the court ordered certain information to be provided by February 7.

To follow

Zachary Stieber covers US news and stories related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.

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