Seals Receive Injunction On COVID Jabs.

A Federal judge in Texas has blocked the government for disciplining and or discharging members of the Navy who refuse to receive a COVID vaccine. Specifically, the case dealt with US Navy SEALS who had applied for exemptions based on religious beliefs and were denied, but other secular exemptions that were sought had been granted.

From the Judge’s order:

This case arises from the United States Navy’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Plaintiffs are thirty-five Navy Special Warfare servicemembers, including SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen, Navy Divers, and an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician. Compl. 1, 8–9, ECF No. 1. Together, they sue President Biden, Secretary of Defense Austin, Secretary of the Navy Del Toro, and the United States Department of Defense.

The plaintiffs were suing under the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) and the First Amendment and are being represented by the First Liberty Institute.

In August 2021, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued a vaccine mandate directing all DoD servicemembers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Pls.’ App. 146–47, ECF No. 17. The Department of the Navy also implemented its own mandate requiring all active-duty Navy servicemembers to be fully vaccinated before November 28 or face the “full range” of disciplinary action. Pls.’ App. 149–50, ECF No. 17. For servicemembers assigned to Special Operations duty, the Navy’s vaccination policy reads:

[Special Operations] personnel refusing to receive recommended vaccines . . . based solely on personal or religious beliefs are disqualified. This provision does not pertain to medical contraindications or allergies to vaccine administration.

In other words, the Navy said “we don’t care about your religious beliefs, get the shot or get out.”

We understand those currently in the military and former military members who say “I got lots of vaccinations when I joined and before I deployed. I could not refuse those vaccinations because it was an order.”

That is a valid point, but in this case – the COVID vaccinations – the “order” extended to the service member’s family. It did not matter whether the family lived on base or off. The Navy told service members that their families – who are not under the military or under any orders from the military – must get a vaccination or else risk being discharged.

The Judge took note of a quote by George Washington in 1775 of “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.”

While the military may restrict some rights of its members in the name of “good order,” it may not restrict the rights of regular citizens due to a family member being in the military.

We tended to lean toward the “you’re in the military – get the jab” line of thinking until we looked at the Judge’s order and found what we think is unconscionable and outrageous behavior by the Navy above and beyond the family vaccination requirement.

To get a waiver of the vaccination, there was a fifty step process for approval of that waiver.

Here’s how the process worked:

The Navy’s accommodation process confirms those fears. The Navy uses a fifty-step process to adjudicate religious accommodation requests.15 Under the standard operating procedures for the process, the first fifteen steps require an administrator to update a prepared disapproval template with the requester’s name and rank. In essence, the Plaintiffs’ requests are denied the moment they begin. That prepared letter is then sent to seven offices for review. After those offices review the disapproval letter, the administrator packages the letter with other religious accommodation requests for final signature. The administrator then prepares an internal memo to Vice Admiral John Nowell, asking him to “sign . . . letters disapproving immunization waiver requests based on sincerely held religious beliefs.”16 Then, at step thirty-five of the process, the administrator is told—for the first time—to read through the religious accommodation request. At that point, the disapproval letter has already been written, the religious accommodation request and related documents has already been reviewed by several offices, the disapproval has already been packaged with similar requests, and an internal memo has already been drafted requesting that Vice Admiral Nowell disapprove the religious accommodation request. The administrator is then tasked with reading the request and recording 11 any pertinent information in a spreadsheet. At no point in the process is the administrator given the opportunity to recommend anything other than disapproval. The materials are then sent to Vice Admiral Nowell. The entire process belies the manual’s assertion that “[e]ach request is evaluated on a case by case basis.”1

Requesting – merely requesting – a waiver could result in the loss of rank and trident (which is awarded to Navy SEALs upon successful completion of SEAL training and assignment to a SEAL team.)

Again, from the order:

Many Plaintiffs have been told that merely requesting a religious accommodation will result in their removal from the Naval Special Warfare community and loss of their Trident.

The Navy set up a procedure that from the outside looked as being comprehensive and fair, but internally merely asking for a waiver would mean the loss of people’s careers.

The judge also noted this case:

In one egregious example, Navy SEAL 26 was approved for a four-week program in Maryland to treat deployment-related traumatic brain injury.25 He told his commanding officer that he could travel in his own vehicle to the medical facility, which did not have a vaccine requirement for its patients. His commanding officer told him he was not allowed to travel because he was unvaccinated. SEAL 26 missed the opportunity to receive treatment, despite his pending religious accommodation request.

This is how we treat those serving in the military? We deny them treatment for a brain injury because they are not vaccinated? We deny them the ability to travel alone to a treatment facility that does not require vaccinations?

That is unconscionable.

Simply unconscionable.

Whether the service members should have gotten the vaccine is a matter that is up for discussion. What is not up for discussion is the fact that the Navy denied these men – the best of the best in the Navy – their Constitutional rights in a sham process.

The very rights these guys are willing to fight and die for were denied to them.

No amount of argument or reason can make that right.

The Judge’s order:


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