Navy SEALs are brave and fierce fighters who dedicate years of their lives, sacrificing themselves physically and mentally to serve our nation and defend our liberties. Plus, it can cost millions of taxpayer dollars in training to prepare the most elite fighting force on the face of the earth.
First Liberty represents 35 SEALs who presently serve at various classified and confidential locations and who collectively have more than 350 years of military service and more than 100 combat deployments. But when they inquired about seeking religious accommodation from the military’s vaccine mandate, the Navy informed many of them that they could face court-martial or involuntary separation if they don’t receive the vaccine. Each of their religious accommodation denials appear to be identical, suggesting the Navy is not taking their requests seriously.
Some of the SEALs were also informed that if they simply sought a religious accommodation, the Navy would confiscate their Special Warfare devices—such as the famous SEAL “Trident”—that they proudly wear on their uniforms. These elite servicemembers are being harassed, intimidated, and punished for just asking for a religious exemption. The military is threatening their careers, families, and finances.
First Liberty Institute and Hacker Stephens LLP filed one of the first lawsuits against the Department of Defense vaccine mandate in November 2021. In January 2022, a federal district court judge issued an injunction that prohibits the Navy from taking any adverse action against members of the Navy SEALs because of their sincere religious objections to the Department of Defense vaccine mandate. In early March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected the Navy’s request that it stay the injunction. But on March 25, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, granted the Biden Administration’s emergency application for a partial stay that allows the Navy to consider vaccination status when making operational decisions.
In August 2022, First Liberty and Hacker Stephens filed their opening brief in the case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute said, “The Pentagon’s insistence in ignoring the law and new CDC guidance has created an unnecessary constitutional mess. Dedicated and brave service members are still being punished for requesting religious accommodations, and now, fewer and fewer men and women are joining the military. Today, America is less safe. It’s past time for the Biden administration to reverse its dangerous mandate and welcome religious Americans who desperately want to serve their country into the military.”
For Immediate Release: 3.28.22
Contact: Lacey McNiel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Breaking: Federal Court Expands Injunction Against Military Vaccine Mandate to Include All U.S. Navy Personnel
First Liberty Institute asked court to expand Navy SEALs lawsuit, injunction to class action on behalf of all U.S. Navy personnel
Ft. Worth, TX—The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas today expanded a lawsuit, and the preliminary injunction it issued in January in favor of dozens of Navy SEALs, stopping the Department of Defense from punishing any Navy personnel who have religious objections to the Department’s vaccine mandate. The class action and classwide injunction protect every U.S. Navy service member who requested a religious accommodation from the vaccine mandate.
“No service member should be punished or driven out of the military for following their faith,” said Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute. “The purge of religious servicemembers is not just devastating to morale but it is bringing about about a measurable reduction in readiness that harms America’s national security. It’s time for our military to honor its constitutional obligations and grant religious accommodations for service members with sincere religious objections to the vaccine.”
In his decision today, Judge Reed O’Connor said, “Here, the potential class members have suffered the ‘same injury,’ arising from violations of their constitutional rights. Each has submitted a religious accommodation request, and each has had his request denied, delayed, or dismissed on appeal. Exactly zero requests have been granted. And while Defendants encourage this Court to disregard the data, it is hard to imagine a more consistent display of discrimination. As previously explained in this Court’s preliminary injunction order, Plaintiffs have suffered the serious injury of infringement of their religious liberty rights under RFRA and the First Amendment.”
About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at email@example.com or by calling 972-941-4453.