FEDERAL JUDGE AGREES WITH NAVY SEALS RIGHT TO REFUSE COVID-19 VACCINE

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas has determined that the Department of Defense (DOD) via the U.S. Navy can’t punish 35 Navy Special sailors who ​refused the COVID-19 on religious grounds.

In a Monday filing, Judge O’Connor said the sailors were within their rights to request a religious exemption to vaccination and ordered a preliminary injunction to prevent the DOD from punishing them.

“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” wrote O’Connor in his decision. “The COVID-​19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

The decision was made on the grounds that the sailors defied the vaccination mandate on religious grounds. These sailors are part of the very few sailors that have not been vaccinated, as at least 98.5% of active and reserve Navy members have been vaccinated.

“Of the 35 SEALS represented in the suit, 19 has requests for a religious exemption denied by the Navy,” O’Connor wrote. “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial,” he added.

The service members in the suit declined the vaccine on the grounds that aborted fetal cell lines are used in the production of vaccines, which are “affront to their Creator,” O’Connor said.

Fetal cell lines are cells grown using DNA from aborted fetuses. They were used in the development of several nRNA vaccines, and during the production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization representing the 35 Navy SEALS, sued the DOD and President Joe Biden in November over the administration’s vaccine mandate. O’Connor said in the order that he had dismissed Biden as a party in this case, as the court has “no declaratory or injunctive power” against him.

Biden set a deadline of December 14, 2021 for all U.S. military personnel to get vaccinated, but allowed exemptions to be granted on religious grounds. However, the Navy has so far approved none of the 3,247 requests for religious exemption from the vaccine.

The lawsuit said the 35 service members faced a range of disciplinary measures for refusing the vaccine, including being administratively separated from their vaccinated colleagues or dismissed.

“The Plaintiff’s’ loss of religious liberties outweighs any forthcoming harm to the Navy. Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights. Fortunately, the future does not look so dire. Nearly 100% of the Navy has been vaccinated,” O’Connor said.

A DOD spokesperson told the Insider it was “studying the decision. The ruling is a blow to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s push to make vaccines mandatory for all branches of the military.

Austin has argued that the COVID-19 is a necessary medical requirement for all service members. Exemptions were allowed to be filed against the vaccine mandate, although none have allegedly been granted as of yet.

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