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First Liberty Attorney Testifies Before House Oversight Committee

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July 28, 2023
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by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

First Liberty Senior Counsel Danielle Runyan testified before the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee this week.

She was an expert witness at a hearing held by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, titled “Because I Said So: Examining the Science and Impact of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates.” Runyan, who serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, brought attention to the many service members who were horribly mistreated because they requested legal, religious accommodations to the military vaccine mandate.

Thousands of our nation’s warriors—including our 35 U.S. Navy SEAL clients, Runyan herself, and other members of First Liberty’s team—were mistreated, denied deployment and advancement opportunities. Countless people were threatened with being kicked out of the military simply because they wanted to serve in a manner consistent with their beliefs. Even their families were impacted, with many of them being denied medical insurance for their children or faced with losing their hard-earned military benefits.

Runyan’s written testimony highlighted how this is still negatively impacting many in our military:

“The harm is still ongoing for service members. After nearly 40 total lawsuits were filed by service members against the DoD and their respective individual armed services and Secretaries, those who sought a religious accommodation from their respective branch of service are now one to three years behind their peers as a result of being removed from their duties. As a result, many will be unable to promote and are faced with the future prospect of losing their careers…This means we could lose millions in training costs, and hundreds of thousands of years of invaluable institutional knowledge. At a time when young Americans have no desire to join the military, and military members are telling their children not to join the military, we should consider this a significant national security crisis.”

Watch her full testimony below:

Runyan also wrote an op-ed for The Daily Caller recently explaining that most branches are struggling to meet their recruiting goals. Shockingly, the military has shown particular disdain toward service members of faith—even though 70% of those who serve identify as religious and are often motivated by their faith to enlist. She called out the Biden administration’s hostility toward religion and the potential adverse effect it’s having on recruitment:

“The current Administration is intent on promoting its narrowly focused political agenda that has a consistent track record of violating religious citizens’ U.S. Constitutional and statutory rights…The Executive Branch is taking every opportunity to ensure that religious Americans, and specifically religious servicemembers and Veterans, know their place in the political pecking order.”

The Fight Continues for Our U.S. Navy SEALs 

Ever since the military put the mandate in place, First Liberty has secured numerous wins at every stage of the process to restore religious freedom in America’s armed forces. But this legal battle is far from over.

We will be taking our Navy SEALs case back to federal district court, and we have a lot of work to do before we can declare a final victory for our military heroes.

Service members deserve better, and we’re not backing down. These faithful warriors have shown that they will not quit, so we won’t either. There’s a lot at stake and we need your continued support. We can only bring this case closer to victory with your help.

You’ve already helped us secure several crucial wins impacting thousands of service members. But the fight to hold the Navy fully accountable for their mistreatment of America’s warriors is really just getting started.

Our Navy clients, along with their families, are counting on us. Can we count on you?

First Liberty Institute | Protect our Military | The Fight is Now

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