A Texas court ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the US Navy to punish service members seeking a religious exemption from President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary order on Monday blocking the Navy and the Department of Defense from enforcing their vaccine rules.
“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,”The judge made his final decision. “The Covid-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. The First Amendment does not apply to Covid-19. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
A lawsuit was filed by 35 veterans, which included SEALs and Navy personnel and divers. They wanted to oppose the vaccination on religious grounds. The plaintiffs were, according to court records, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Protestants.
They were disqualified for refusing to comply, and would be expelled. “permanently non-deployable,”It was written by the judge.
Judge noted that 94% of Navy active-duty service members had received a complete vaccination against Covid-19 in November.
The order was welcomed by the First Liberty Institute, which is a legal organisation representing plaintiffs. “Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive,” the group’s general counsel, Michael Berry, said in a statement to the media.
The Navy declined to comment. “We are aware of the injunction and are reviewing it,”John Kirby, Pentagon spokesperson said.
President Joe Biden’s wider vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees is currently facing a challenge in the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hold a special hearing on the matter on Friday.
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