Liberty Counsel filed a response opposing the U.S. Coast Guard’s attempt to dismiss the case of those Coast Guard members who currently serve and have been denied religious exemptions from the Department of Defense’s unlawful COVID shot mandate.
Liberty Counsel’s plaintiffs are Coast Guard members who refuse to receive an injection that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs since all of the COVID shots are associated with aborted fetal cells. They have been unlawfully refused any religious exemption or accommodation. Their deadlines to become fully vaccinated have passed, and disciplinary actions have already commenced. Relief is needed now to prevent these military heroes from facing discharge, court martial, other life-altering disciplinary procedures, and termination.
In fact, in today’s response Liberty Counsel stated, “The Court already recognized that a plaintiff’s free exercise claim ‘becomes ripe if the plaintiff faces an actual or imminent injury, which occurs if the plaintiff confronts an actual or imminent burden on religious practice.’ Each Plaintiff has alleged such actual or imminent burden and injury by the Coast Guard’s “inevitable and undifferentiated . . . denial of each service member’s religious accommodation request.” Given these well-pleaded allegations, Defendants cannot show that it is “beyond doubt that the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claims which would entitle them to relief.”
On October 18, House Oversight Committee Republicans sent a letter to Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan demanding that the U.S. Coast Guard explain the process for reviewing religious accommodation exemption applications for the COVID shot mandate, including the use of a digital tool to assist in issuing blanket denials rather than focusing on each individual case as is required by Department of Defense (DOD) Directive.
Fifteen members of Congress, led by James Comer, a ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote, “Religious freedom is protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Despite these protections, information received by Committee Republicans indicates that the adjudication process for exemption applications was a pro forma exercise designed to reach predetermined conclusions—to deny requests and appeals—in nearly every single case. The USCG even created a digital tool to assist in more efficiently denying appeals of the vaccine mandate instead of focusing on the merits of each individual case.”
On June 2, 2022, the Acting Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) Sean O’Donnell sent a memo to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that highlights the deliberate violation of federal law within the Department of Defense as evidenced in actual denials of religious exemption requests from service members who refused the COVID-19 shot because of their religious beliefs.
In O’Donnell’s memo he cites DoD Instruction 1300.17 which states:
“Religious Liberty in the Military Services paragraph 3.2.d requires that ‘officials charged with making recommendations or taking final action on a Service member’s request for the accommodation of religious practices will review each request individually, considering the full range of facts and circumstances relevant to the specific request…. The means that is least restrictive to the requestor’s religious practice and that does not impede a compelling governmental interest will be determinative [Emphasis added.]’”
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The U.S. Coast Guard is violating federal law by denying the religious free exercise rights of service members from the COVID shot mandate. Liberty Counsel will defend our courageous service members until this unlawful abuse stops.”