Biden declared the pandemic over, but unvaxxed Air Force pilots are still grounded

todaySeptember 21, 2022

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Regardless of President Biden’s assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” unvaccinated Air Pressure pilots searching for spiritual lodging to the vaccine mandate are nonetheless being prohibited from flying, regardless of these with medical exemptions with the ability to carry out their regular duties.

Biden stated throughout an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday: “The pandemic is over. We nonetheless have an issue with Covid. We’re nonetheless doing quite a lot of work on it. It is — however the pandemic is over.”

The president’s assertion comes amid an ongoing class motion lawsuit on the sixth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals to grant aid to over 10,000 unvaccinated energetic obligation, reserve, and Nationwide Guard Air Pressure and Area Pressure members who submitted a spiritual exemption to the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate and had been denied or are awaiting a choice. Most just lately, the sixth Circuit ordered the Air Pressure to halt “disciplinary or separation measures” taken in opposition to the category whereas the lawsuit continues.

The Air Pressure informed Fox Information Digital by way of a spokesperson that the company is complying with the sixth Circuit injunction to pause penalties in opposition to unvaccinated service members. 

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the growing old T-37 fleet all through Air Training and Coaching Command. (Air Pressure photograph by Grasp Sgt. David Richards)

“The Division of the Air Pressure is complying with the court docket order to pause all disciplinary and antagonistic actions for these refusing the COVID-19 vaccine who submitted a well timed spiritual lodging request,” the spokesperson stated. “This contains the Air Pressure Reserve Command processing Airmen to the Particular person Prepared Reserve.”

Nevertheless, plaintiff attorneys say that regardless of the injunction, there’s ongoing discrimination in assignments and operational selections in opposition to unvaccinated Air Pressure members.

Legal professional Chris Wiest informed Fox Information Digital that language contained within the Supreme Courtroom’s order in one other case on behalf of unvaccinated Navy SEALs searching for spiritual lodging created an exception that the Air Pressure is utilizing as a way to maintain pilots grounded.

The Supreme Courtroom stated in March that the U.S. navy has broad discretion to make “deployment, task, and different operational selections,” which gave the Navy, and now prolonged to different branches of the navy, the power to make use of vaccination standing as a consider deployments and obligation assignments.

In consequence, the current sixth Circuit injunction has made no distinction for the fates of grounded pilots, Wiest defined, as a result of unvaccinated Air Pressure members are nonetheless having their assignments pulled or suspended all throughout the exception that the Supreme Courtroom created within the Navy SEAL case.

Andy Grieb, a T-6 instructor pilot, is one plaintiff in First Liberty's case who has been grounded from flying and ordered to instruct in a simulator (pictured here) by the Air Force because his religious accommodation request was denied. (First Liberty Institute)

Andy Grieb, a T-6 teacher pilot, is one plaintiff in First Liberty’s case who has been grounded from flying and ordered to instruct in a simulator (pictured right here) by the Air Pressure as a result of his spiritual lodging request was denied. (First Liberty Institute)

“The Air Pressure continues to stop its members with spiritual objections to taking the vaccine from performing a lot of their common duties. The very best instance is that pilots who’re unvaccinated for spiritual causes have been grounded whereas pilots who’re unvaccinated for medical causes are flying,” stated Danielle Runyan, a member of the Air Pressure Reserve and counsel for First Liberty Institute, which represents service members in each the Air Pressure and Navy SEAL class circumstances. She can be one of many plaintiffs within the Air Pressure case.

“This can ultimately result in hundreds of Airmen shedding their careers as a result of they are going to ultimately be unable to advertise to the following grade. There’s nothing operational about these selections, particularly in mild of the president saying that the pandemic is over. In actual fact, that is grave risk to our nationwide safety that ought to alarm each American,” she continued.

Andy Grieb, a T-6 teacher pilot, has been grounded from flying by the Air Pressure as a result of his spiritual lodging request was denied. He informed Fox Information Digital that he serves because the preliminary pilot coach for brand-new lieutenants and has been doing the job for 10 years and has been a pilot for 21 years and loves it.

Final October, Grieb filed for a spiritual exemption to the mandate, figuring out he had antibodies as a result of having COVID-19 early within the pandemic and likewise a deeply held spiritual objection to taking the vaccine. He known as the Air Pressure course of “archaic and disorganized.” His preliminary exemption request was denied in January, and his attraction was issued a remaining denial of attraction on Might 4.

Grieb was initially not allowed to work or earn retirement credit in any respect after Might 4 till the sixth Circuit preliminary injunction on the finish of July. Ever since then, he has been grounded from flying and tasked with instructing Air Pressure college students in a simulator, which he by no means would have accomplished earlier than. 

He stated that he’s “extraordinarily annoyed.” Grieb continued, “I do not know a single pilot that desires to do one thing that is not flying. I imply, we glance we do it as a result of we like to fly. No less than I do. I like to fly.”

He famous that his colleagues who obtained medical lodging requests to the vaccine are capable of fly, whereas those that submitted spiritual objections should not in a position to take action. One other challenge that he now faces is attempting to have the ability to keep flight {qualifications} as a way to progress profession within the Air Pressure, with out getting his flight hours or expertise.

“Unvaccinated people which have a medical exemption are persevering with to fly, whereas those that, like myself, have requested spiritual lodging when it was denied. We’re not allowed to fly,” he stated.

Moreover, he stated that when he is flying in a authorities airplane, he’s sporting security tools together with an oxygen system that isn’t mixing environments with the scholars he’s educating. However contained in the simulator, he is in a lot nearer quarters with the scholars with out protecting tools.

“The Air Pressure is shedding out on a beneficial useful resource, which is the instructors that aren’t educating proper now or doing their mission. Along with that, we’ve to keep up our {qualifications} within the Air Pressure to ensure that a profession to progress. So the flying duties are the qualification,” Grieb defined.

The Air Pressure spokesperson didn’t reply to Fox Information Digital when requested why pilots who requested medical exemptions to the vaccine are capable of fly, whereas these searching for spiritual lodging should not. 

Loud, low-flying jets were reported in New York City on Tuesday. 

Loud, low-flying jets had been reported in New York Metropolis on Tuesday. 
(U.S. Air Pressure Academy )

The mom of 1 Air Pressure pilot included within the class motion informed Fox Information Digital that her son’s near 18-year profession as a fighter pilot has been taken away, as he has been grounded over his spiritual objection to taking the vaccine. She known as it a waste of taxpayer {dollars} to floor her son, a extremely skilled and embellished pilot.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a retired Air Pressure brigadier basic, informed Fox Information Digital that he has been involved with many service members who’ve encountered related points.

“I’ve been in direct contact with many service members over the past 12 months – together with many from Nebraska – who’ve respectable considerations about the way in which the Pentagon has dealt with the processing and disposition of their requests for spiritual and medical exemptions,” stated Bacon. 

“Orders are orders, and I obtained each vaccine identified to man after I served in uniform, however possibly it’s time to reassess this specific order. Based mostly on the president’s current statements on the pandemic, I’m personally not satisfied we’ve struck the fitting steadiness between navy danger and the Structure. We have to contemplate the intense recruiting and retention issues now dealing with the navy, and overview actions taken in opposition to those that didn’t get the vaccine,” Bacon continued.


Final week, the Pentagon’s performing inspector basic issued a report, obtained by Fox Information Digital, which said that there are “regarding denials of spiritual liberty lodging requests from COVID-19 vaccination necessities.”

“We discovered a pattern of generalized assessments fairly than the individualized evaluation that’s required by Federal regulation and DoD and Army Service insurance policies,” he continued within the report, issued to the secretary of protection.

Attorneys inform Fox Information Digital that they haven’t heard something out of the Air Pressure with respect to the memo, they usually don’t have any purpose to consider that the company will reverse course. Nevertheless, they are saying that the IG is holding the Air Pressure’s “ft to the hearth” and can hopefully result in better transparency.

“The Air Pressure is attempting to drive out individuals who have sturdy spiritual beliefs,” summarized Wiest.

The White Home referred Fox Information Digital to the Division of Protection.

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