Navy barred from acting against religious vaccine refusers

todayMarch 29, 2022

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WASHINGTON – A federal decide in Texas is barring the Navy from taking motion for now towards sailors who’ve objected to being vaccinated towards COVID-19 on spiritual grounds.

U.S. District Decide Reed O’Connor had in January issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Navy from disciplining or discharging 35 sailors who sued over the Navy’s vaccine coverage whereas their case performed out. On Monday, O’Connor agreed the case might go ahead as a category motion lawsuit and issued a preliminary injunction masking the roughly 4,000 sailors who’ve objected on spiritual grounds to being vaccinated.

O’Connor stated the bigger group of sailors shared widespread traits with those that had sued. That they had requested for and been denied an exemption to the vaccine requirement on spiritual grounds and had been going through the specter of being discharged from the Navy, O’Connor wrote.


“Despite the fact that their private circumstances might factually differ in small methods, the menace is similar — get the jab or lose your job,” wrote O’Connor, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush.

Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin final 12 months made vaccinations obligatory for service members. Greater than 99% of the Navy’s energetic responsibility power has been vaccinated towards COVID-19, and the Navy has additionally discharged 650 folks for refusing to be vaccinated. Navy pointers permit for exemptions to the vaccine requirement on spiritual and different grounds, together with medical causes and if a service member is about to go away the Navy.

Attorneys for the group of sailors who sued, most of them Navy SEALs, argue that the Navy had granted lots of of exemptions for medical and administrative causes however granted no spiritual exemptions for energetic responsibility and reserve service members. 9 inactive reserve members have been granted spiritual exemptions.


Mike Berry, the director of army affairs for First Liberty Institute, which is representing the sailors, stated in an announcement following O’Connor’s motion that it is “time for our army to honor its constitutional obligations and grant spiritual lodging for service members with honest spiritual objections to the vaccine.”

Whereas the case continues to be at an early stage, the U.S. Supreme Court docket in a quick order Friday narrowed the impression of O’Connor’s authentic injunction, saying that the Navy might nonetheless think about the vaccination standing of the sailors who sued in making deployment, task and different operational selections. O’Connor’s newest injunction permits the Navy to think about vaccination standing in making these selections about members of the bigger group as nicely.

President Joe Biden’s administration had argued that not permitting the Navy to think about vaccination standing in making assignments posed “insupportable dangers to security and mission success.”


“Navy personnel routinely function for prolonged durations of time in confined areas which can be ripe breeding grounds for respiratory sicknesses, the place mitigation measures reminiscent of distancing are impractical or unimaginable,” Biden administration attorneys wrote. “A SEAL who falls ailing not solely can not full his or her personal mission, however dangers infecting others as nicely, significantly in shut quarters, together with on submarines.”


Related Press author Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Related Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.

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