Judge Rules Pentagon Can’t Punish Navy SEALs for Refusing COVID Vaccine

by Samantha Whidden
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A Texas federal judge has reportedly barred the Defense Department at the Pentagon from penalizing 35 Navy SEALs who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the New York Post, U.S. District Judge, Reed O’Connor granted a preliminary injunction on Monday (January 3rd) in the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon on behalf of a group of Christian Navy SEALs who refused the vaccine on religious grounds. The judge stated the Navy SEAls contended that the vaccination policy violates their religious freedoms under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

The judge declared, “The Navy service​ ​members, in this case, seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect.  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.”

The US Navy was requiring all active-duty services members to be fully vaccinated by November 28th. However, those who did not meet the deadline would face disciplinary action. O’Connor cited the military branch’s policy. Which states that personnel refusing to receive the vaccine based solely on personal or religious beliefs are disqualified from the disciplinary action. 

The New York Post further revealed that First Liberty Institution sued on behalf of the Navy SEALs. It is a non-profit law firm that defends religious freedoms. First Liberty Institute’s Mike Berry, issued a statement about the suit. “Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values.”

Meanwhile, Berry states that punishing the Navy SEALs who ask for religious accommodation is vindictive and punitive. “We’re pleased that the court has acted to protect our brave warriors. Before more damages done to our national security.”

US Navy Speaks out About COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal 

In November 2021, the US Navy spoke out about the COVID-19 vaccination refusal. The military branch also issued guidance to command for service members who refuse to comply with the service’s order mandating all active-dirty and reserve members be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. 

The Navy also reported that 95% of active-duty members are fully vaccinated. And more than 99% have received at least one of the shots of the vaccine series. However, the vaccination became mandatory in August 2021 at the direction of the Sectary of Defense.

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral, John B. Nowell Jr. spoke about the vaccination command. “In order to ensure a fully vaccinated force, it is U.S. Navy policy to separate all Navy service members who refuse the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. The least favorable characterization of service for Navy service members refusing the vaccine, without extenuating circumstances, will be GENERAL under honorable conditions.

Outsider.com