The U.S. military has mandated that all members of the Armed Forces, both those on active duty and in the reserves, be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The different military branches can grant exemptions, both medical and religious, to the mandate. But so far, despite multiple members requesting a waiver to the mandate, the U.S. Navy has granted zero requests for religious accommodation.
In fact, when one Navy SEAL informed his command that he would request a religious exemption, he was immediately ordered to remove his special warfare device pin from his uniform.
In response, 35 Navy SEALs “whose careers and livelihoods are being threatened with punishment, involuntary separation or even court-martial” because of the vaccine mandate are suing the Biden administration and the Department of Defense (DoD) over their refusal to grant religious exemptions.
The SEALs are represented by First Liberty Institute and the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
The lawsuit notes that each plaintiff objects to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine “based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
These beliefs include the following:
- Concerns about the connection between the available COVID-19 vaccines and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in their testing, development, or production.
- Beliefs 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.”
- Convictions after seeking God’s guidance, that God instructed them not to receive the vaccine.
While the Navy has granted five permanent medical exemptions to vaccinations, according to a spokesman for the Navy, “in the past seven years, no religious exemption from vaccination waivers were approved for any other vaccine” and “multiple religious accommodation requests related to the COVID vaccine mandate have been adjudicated and none have yet been approved.”
As The Daily Citizen has previously written, “Under the Supreme Court’s precedents, if the government burdens the free exercise of religion, it must do so in a ‘neutral and generally applicable’ manner.”
The fact that the Navy has granted permanent exemptions from vaccination for a secular reason (medical exemptions), but refuses to do so for religious ones, would likely violate the First Amendment.
“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,” Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a press release.
“Instead, this appears to be an attempted ideological purge. Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” Berry added.
“After all these elite warriors have done to defend our freedoms, the Navy is now threatening their careers, families, and finances. It’s appalling and it has to stop before any more harm is done to our national security.”
In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Berry noted that several Navy SEALs have been told that even if their request for a religious exemption is approved, they’ll still be “removed from the Navy SEAL community.”
“They’ve been told that their family members, their spouses and their children are not allowed to travel if they’re not vaccinated. Since when does the DoD have authority or jurisdiction over family members?”
First Liberty has created an online petition where concerned citizens can go and offer a personal note of encouragement for the SEALs involved in the lawsuit. You can sign the letter of support here.
The case is U.S. Navy Seals v. Joseph Biden.
Photo from Shutterstock.