A federal district court in Ohio has granted class certification and a class-wide preliminary injunction to protect the entire class of the U.S Air Force while the lawsuit continues against the unlawful Department of Defense COVID shot mandate. Thousands of these service members who oppose receiving the shot due to their sincerely held religious beliefs have been denied their religious exemptions.
In his preliminary injunction order for Hunter Doster, et al. v. Hon Frank Kendall, et al., Judge Matthew McFarland modified the members of the class that are protected to include: “All active-duty, active reserve, reserve, national guard, inductees, and appointees of the United States Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Cadets, Members of the Air Force Reserve Command, and any Airman who has sworn or affirmed the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office or Enlistment and is currently under command and could be deployed, who: (i) submitted a religious accommodation request to the Air Force from the Air Force COVID-19 vaccination requirement, where the request was submitted or was pending, from September 1, 2021 to the present; (ii) were confirmed as having had a sincerely held religious belief substantially burdened by the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement by or through Air Force Chaplains; and (iii) either had their requested accommodation denied or have not had action on that request.”
In addition, Judge McFarland further protected the class by adding that, “Defendants, and their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and other people acting in concert or participation with them, who receive notice of this preliminary injunction, are PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from: (i) taking, furthering, or continuing any disciplinary or separation measures against the members of the Class for their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, while keeping in place the current temporary exemption; such disciplinary or separation measures include, but are not limited to, ‘adverse administrative actions, non-judicial punishment, administrative demotions, administrative discharges, and courts-martial;’ for the benefit of Defendants, this includes continuing any administrative separation or punitive processes or initiating the same. However, if there are any court-martials that are in process with members in which the members have been sworn or a witness having been sworn such that jeopardy has attached, those actions shall be stayed, and the Government shall provide notice to this Court of a listing of any such actions within 7 days for further consideration or resolution of this issue; (ii) Defendants shall not place or continue active reservists on no points, no pay status for their refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 due to their sincerely held religious beliefs; and (iii) Defendants shall not refuse to accept for commissioning or enlistment any inductee or appointee due to their refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 due to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Further, Members who submitted requests for religious accommodation may cancel or amend previous voluntary retirement or separation requests or requests to transfer to the Air Force Reserve. Nothing in this Order precludes the Department of the Air Force from considering vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.”
The court also added that “any person acting in concert with Defendants” are also prevented from taking any adverse action against any Air Force service members regarding their request for religious accommodation from the COVID-19 shot.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This order vindicates religious free exercise protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which the Department of Defense has violated with this unlawful COVID shot mandate. This is a great victory for religious freedom, especially for these Air Force service members who love God and love America. We commend this Ohio court for recognizing the unconstitutional way the military is treating these honorable service members.”