Liberty Counsel has filed seeking a temporary restraining order on behalf of a U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austinwho faces immediate discipline after being denied his appeal for a religious accommodation from the COVID shot mandate.
The Cadet believes that God has called him to serve in the Air Force but he has a sincerely held religious belief that he should not receive any of the COVID shots because of their connections to abortion.
On March 30, 2022, the Air Force ordered the Cadet to choose between the COVID-19 vaccination or “voluntary” resignation from the Air Force Academy within five calendar days or face “disciplinary action” and “initiation of administrative separation.” The Air Force then extended the Cadet’s compliance deadline to April 25.
The Cadet testified, “After I initiated the process to request a religious accommodation from vaccination, I had a counseling with my commander on August 13, 2021 with the stated purpose ‘to discuss if you even qualify and what the process is.’ My commander, however, did not discuss the process or possible accommodations with me. Instead, he ‘managed my expectations’ by constantly telling me I would not win; by recommending an AF Form 34 (Discharge from the Air Force) if I would not get the vaccine; and by attempting to guilt trip me into getting the vaccine.”
Liberty Counsel returns to the U.S. District Court in Tampa on Monday to seek a preliminary injunction for a United States Marine Corps Captain who faced punishment after the military rejected his appeal from a denial for a religious accommodation from the shot mandate. Federal Judge Steven Merryday previously granted a temporary restraining order for the Captain on April 1.
Judge Merryday has now granted injunctions for three service members who were denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate. The court based its ruling on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), finding that the Marines and the Navy failed to demonstrate “to the individualized person” two of RFRA’s essential requirements on government action that burdens a person’s sincere religious belief – a compelling interest and the least restrictive means. This conclusion alone will essentially undo the blanket requirement placed on service members to get the COVID shots when such action burdens their sincere religious beliefs.
Liberty Counsel has already asked Judge Merryday to certify the entire class of the military and provide relief from the unlawful shot mandates.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Every service member deserves protection from making the choice between their religious convictions and their service to our nation. Liberty Counsel will continue to fight for them until this abuse ends.”