FederalJudicialLawsuit Filed for Navy SEALs Who Were Denied Religious Exemptions for Vaccine Mandate

A Texas-based religious liberty legal organization is petitioning a federal court to rule against the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandates.
November 10, 2021
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First Liberty Institute, a Plano-based legal organization focused on religious liberty issues, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in a Texas federal district court on behalf of several dozen Navy SEALs and other members of the Navy who have not been granted religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued by the Department of Defense (DOD).

“The fact that the government has not granted a single religious exemption from the vaccine mandate shows that the Biden Administration does not care about religious freedom. Instead, this appears to be an attempted ideological purge,” said First Liberty attorney Mike Berry in a press release. “Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values.”

First Liberty argues in their complaint that the DOD vaccination policies under the Biden administration violate federal law and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

According to the lawsuit, several of the petitioning Navy members received a formal notice that refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine “based solely on personal or religious beliefs” would “affect deployment and special pays.”

Further, the lawsuit states, “When at least one Plaintiff told his command that he would be requesting a religious accommodation, he was ordered to remove his special warfare device pin from his uniform. Other Plaintiffs have been threatened with the same adverse treatment.”

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Several of the plaintiffs’ objections to receiving the vaccine based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” are listed in the suit, such as what they understand as a connection between the development or production of the vaccine to the use of aborted fetal cells.

The complaint notes that multiple plaintiffs “prior to learning about the production or testing of the COVID19 vaccines using aborted fetal cell lines, were unaware that such cell lines were used in the production or testing of any medications or vaccines,” but that they have “since committed to refusing to take any medication that is thus developed or tested.”

Others “hold to the sincere religious belief that the human body is God’s temple, and that they must not take anything into their bodies that God has forbidden or that would alter the functions of their body such as by inducing the production of a spike protein in a manner not designed by God.”

The complaint asserts that the Navy members “do not object to safety measures like mask-wearing, physical distancing, regular testing, sick leave, and teleworking” like they had implemented before the vaccines became available.

But according to the lawsuit, such alternative measures for religious exemptions have not been granted by the Biden administration.

First Liberty asks the court to declare the DOD’s vaccination policies as unlawful, enjoin them from enforcing those policies, and grant the military officers in the suit “actual damages [. . .] in the amount of pay Plaintiffs will lose as a result of Defendants’ discriminatory policies.”

“After all these elite warriors have done to defend our freedoms, the Navy is now threatening their careers, families, and finances,” said Berry. “It’s appalling and it has to stop before any more harm is done to our national security.”

The pro-religious freedom organization has also supported efforts to challenge the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for private businesses in ongoing litigation.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.