A U.S. federal district court judge has blocked the administration from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on servicemembers in the Air Force, Space Force and Air National Guard who have requested religious exemptions to the mandate, Fox19 reports.
Judge Matthew McFarland in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, an appointee of former President Donald J. Trump, said that the denial of these servicemembers’ requests for religious exemptions were “violations of [the] Airmen’s constitutional rights to practice their religions as they please.”
The judge preliminarily enjoined (temporarily stopped) the Air Force from “taking, furthering, or continuing any disciplinary or separation measures against the members of the Class for their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
In a statement following the ruling, one of the plaintiffs in the case, Joe Dills, who has served in the Air Force reserves since 2013, said he believed the Air Force wasn’t taking his request for religious exemption seriously.
“What’s really frustrating is this fact: The Air Force has granted thousands and thousands of administrative and medical exemptions but only a handful of religious exemptions. So all of us put together very tight packages (proposals) for our religious exemptions and the commanders have basically rubber-stamped and denied all of them.
“It would appear they didn’t even look at our packages at all.”
Chris Wiest, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “Obviously, we are thrilled for our clients who we were facing career-ending consequences for the exercise of their sincerely held beliefs.
“This case will now proceed into the discovery phase in which we look forward to placing government decision-makers under oath and questioning them about their discriminatory decision-making.”
According to Fox19, the decision impacts 7,000 to 9,000 service members around the globe.
Challenges against vaccine mandates have garnered some success in our nation’s court system.
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) vaccine mandate that would have required 84 million workers to receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the high court upheld a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services COVID-19 vaccine mandate to take effect for 17 million healthcare workers.
Additionally, in March, the Supreme Court ruled against 35 members of the Naval Special Warfare community, including 26 Navy SEALs, who had requested religious accommodations from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
If you are a member of the military, and believe you are being discriminated against based on your religious beliefs, First Liberty Institute may be able to help you.
On its homepage, the organization has a section titled “Vaccine Mandate Help” which provides the following resources:
The case is Doster v Kendall.
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