The U.S. Marines have won a class action lawsuit to prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on thousands of Marines and punishing those Marines who have religious objections to receiving the shots.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday issued a preliminary injunction for all soldiers who are in active or reserve service in the United States Marine Crops.

The judge wrote that 3,733 Marines have requested a religious accommodation to the Department of Defense’s vaccine mandate, which they requested under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Of those thousands of requests, the Marine Corps has granted just 11 requests, or less than three-tenths of a percent (0.295%). However, the Corps has only granted the requests of those who are close to retirement.

“The record presents no successful applicant other than a few who are due for retirement and prompt separation,” Judge Merryday wrote.

“Because the record reveals the substantial likelihood of a systemic failure by the Marine Corps to discharge the obligations established by RFRA, a classwide preliminary injunction is warranted,” the judge added (emphasis added).

RFRA requires employers (the Marine Corps in this case) to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to employees who object to an employer’s actions based on a “sincerely held” religious belief.

“In not one case has the Marine Corps agreed to allow any accommodation, including any already-proven-successful health and safety protocol, to reasonably accommodate both the health and readiness of the Marine Corps and the sincere religious belief of a fellow Marine,” Judge Merryday wrote.

In his ruling, Judge Merryday reasoned that it was highly improbable that the U.S. Marine Corps carefully reviewed each soldier’s application for a religious accommodation from the branches’ vaccine mandate.

The judge wrote that RFRA requires a “to the person” evaluation – meaning the military must carefully evaluate each applicants’ request on an individual basis, rather than rubberstamping approvals or denials.

Therefore, Judge Merryday ordered that the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps are prohibited from taking the following actions:

  1. Enforcing against a member of the class any order, requirement, or rule to accept COVID-19 vaccination.
  2. Separating or discharging from the Marine Corps a member of the class who declines COVID-19 vaccination.
  3. Retaliating against a member of the class for the member’s asserting statutory rights under RFRA.

The Christian, nonprofit legal organization Liberty Counsel brought the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the marines seeking a religious accommodation.

“Our courageous U.S. Marines finally have relief from these unlawful COVID shot mandates,” said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver.

“The Biden administration and the Department of Defense are not above the law. These brave service members have been abused and mistreated because of their faith. They have faced discharge, court martial, other life-altering disciplinary procedures, and termination for simply embracing their religious freedom to choose not the inject a substance into their bodies.

“The Department of Defense has relentlessly violated the law and ignored their religious freedom. Today, that lawlessness ends. Liberty Counsel has the great privilege to defend these service members who love God and their country.”

The case is Colonel Financial Management Officer v. Lloyd Austin.

To learn more about or support the work of Liberty Counsel, you can visit their website by clicking here.

Related articles and resources:

Resources: Military Issues

Judge Blocks Administration from Enforcing Vaccine Mandate on Air Force Servicemembers

Four Air Force Cadets May Not Graduate After Being Denied Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccination Order

Supreme Court Rules Against Navy SEALs Seeking Religious Exemptions from Vaccine Mandate

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