Navy SEALs Fighting Vaccine Mandate Win But Fight Isn’t Over | national
(The Center Square) — A group of Navy SEALs locked in a legal battle over vaccine mandates have won another victory in their fight, which could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit this week denied a Navy request for an emergency stay of an injunction that prevented them from taking action against the SEALS in question. The SEALS requested religious exemptions but were denied, and they say their requests were not given due consideration.
“The Navy has had extraordinary success in vaccinating service members, as at least 99.4% of them are vaccinated,” the appeal decision said. “But this general interest is nevertheless insufficient under [Religious Freedom Restoration Act]. Instead, the Navy must “examine closely…the alleged harm of granting specific exemptions to particular religious claimants.” The question is therefore not whether [the Navy has] a compelling interest in enforcing its [vaccination] policies in general, but if he has such an interest in refusing an exception to [each Plaintiff].”
The First Liberty Institute, the group representing the SEALS, welcomed the decision.
“Events around the world remind us daily that there are those who seek to harm America. Our military should welcome the military, not force them out because of their religious beliefs,” said Mike Berry , director of military affairs at the First Liberty Institute. “The purge of members of religious services is not only devastating to morale, but it is damaging to the national security of the United States. It is time for our military to honor their constitutional obligations and to grant religious accommodations to service members with sincere religious objections to the vaccine.We are grateful that the Fifth Circuit denied the Navy’s request.
The move upheld an injunction issued by U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Judge Reed O’Connor in January.
“The Navy servicemen in this case seek to assert the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” reads O’Connor’s decision. “The COVID-19 pandemic gives the government no license to abrogate these freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.
The decision comes amid a weakening of COVID-19 mandates nationwide. Several Democratic-led states have rescinded their mask mandates in recent weeks. Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the majority of Americans will no longer need to wear masks indoors.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing…” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court in January struck down President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate on private companies, but upheld the mandate for some healthcare workers.
“The question before us is not how to respond to the pandemic, but who holds the power to do so. The answer is clear: under the law as it stands today, what power rests with the states and Congress, not with OSHA,” Judge wrote in the majority opinion.
Now the highest court can revisit the issue in the SEALs case. O’Connor’s ruling in January suggests the Navy has gone too far.
“No matter how remote the possibility, plaintiffs could be compensated for their losses,” the decision read. “They could be reinstated with back pay, promoted retroactively or reimbursed for lost benefits like medical insurance and the GI Bill. But because these injuries are inextricably linked to the loss of the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, this Court must find that the Plaintiffs suffered irreparable harm. Plaintiffs suffered the most serious harm from the violation of their religious freedom rights under the RFRA and the First Amendment. . .”