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Tipsheet

Navy SEALs Who Sued Biden Administration Over Vaccine Mandate See Win in Court

AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

A federal judge on Monday barred the Defense Department from punishing a group of Navy SEALS who sought a religious exemption to the federal vaccine mandate.

Responding to a lawsuit filed by First Liberty on behalf of the 35 special forces service members, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who pointed out that the Navy had not granted any religious exemptions, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the department from enforcing the mandate.  

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"The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor wrote in the decision. “The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms.”

“There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment," he continued. "There is no military exclusion from our Constitution."

First Liberty General Counsel Mike Berry said the organization was “pleased” with the ruling.

"Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values," he said. "Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive. We’re pleased that the court has acted to protect our brave warriors before more damage is done to our national security."

The SEALs, who presently serve at various classified and confidential locations, collectively have more than 350 years of military service, and more than 100 combat deployments.  When they inquired about seeking religious accommodation for the vaccine, the Navy informed many of the plaintiffs that they could face court-martial or involuntary separation if they don’t receive the vaccine.  Each of their religious accommodation denials appear to be identical, suggesting the Navy is not taking their requests seriously.  The Navy also warned some of the plaintiffs that if they sought a religious exemption, the Navy would confiscate their Special Warfare devices—such as the famous SEAL “Trident”—that they proudly wear on their uniforms. (First Liberty)

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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said they are “aware of the injunction and are reviewing it.” 

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