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Last week, a federal district court issued an order stating a class action lawsuit initially filed by several Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel against the Navy for punishing servicemembers who had religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is not moot and can continue.  The court stated that although Congress rescinded the vaccine mandate, the Navy’s “sham” religious accommodation process that it used to punish thousands of sailors is still in place.  In other words, the Navy has done nothing to address the source of the problem.

“This has been a long and difficult journey, but our Navy SEALs don’t quit,” said Danielle Runyan, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “While some may believe the case ended after Congress forced the Navy to repeal the mandate, nothing could be further from the truth.  Rescinding the mandate was just the first step, but the real harm to these brave warriors continues because there is still no valid process for religious accommodation.  First Liberty has stood arm-in-arm with our nation’s sailors, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes to win.”

In January 2022, First Liberty Institute and the law firm Hacker Stephens LLP won the firsLast Lat major victory in the nation against the military’s vaccine mandate in Navy SEALs 1-26, et al v. Biden, and later expanded the case into a class action on behalf of all affected Navy members.  Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld that injunction.  And even though the Fifth Circuit last year ruled the Navy’s appeal of the injunction was moot because Congress rescinded the vaccine mandate, the court made clear that the case could continue in the district court to evaluate the Navy’s broader religious discrimination because of the mandate.

In its opinion yesterday, the court stated, the SEALs “argue that the persistence of this broader illegal [religious accommodation] process has injured, and will prospectively injure, the Class Members because they have sincere religious beliefs that impact issues related to their service.  The record bears this out. Without the constitutionally required avenue to seek accommodations for their beliefs, Class Members allege they remain injured. This includes present and future harms due to hesitance to use the accommodations process going forward for any religious accommodation.”

The lawsuit is pending in the United Stated District Court Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division.

Author: Press Release


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