US Judge Stops Pentagon From Punishing Navy SEALs For Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pentagon building is seen in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, on October 9, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

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Jan. 3 (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday banned the U.S. Department of Defense from punishing a group of Navy SEALs and other special forces members who have refused COVID-19 vaccines on religious grounds.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, acting in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 35 members of the special forces, issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Marine and Defense from implementing the warrant.

Reed, who was appointed to the federal bench in Texas by President George W. Bush, said the Navy had granted no religious exemptions to the vaccine rule.

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“The Navy personnel in this case seek to defend the very freedoms they sacrificed so much to protect. The COVID-19 pandemic does not give the government any license to repeal those freedoms,” the judge wrote in a ruling. 26 pages.

Members of the service had faced a series of military disciplinary actions for refusing the vaccine.

First Liberty Institute, a legal organization dedicated to the defense of American religious freedoms that represented the complainant service members, hailed the decision as a victory.

“Forcing a soldier to choose between his faith and serving his country is odious to the Constitution and to American values,” said Mike Berry, the institute’s general counsel, in a written statement.

Pentagon officials could not be reached immediately for a comment by Reuters on Monday evening.

The decision marks the latest salute in a series of legal battles over President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates that have proven deeply controversial among conservatives.

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Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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