Even though the Department of Defense (DOD) officially rescinded the August 24, 2021, and November 30, 2021, memoranda mandating the COVID shot for service members, the military continues to punish them for refusing to follow the unlawful order that violates their religious beliefs.
For example, former U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Mitchell Schaefer submitted a religious accommodation on August 12, 2021. Schaeffer was denied on October 1, 2021. He was then denied an appeal and eventually given an order to receive the COVID shot on December 13, 2021. He submitted a rebuttal that he could not follow an unlawful order. The USMC denied it and he was given an honorable discharge on May 3, 2022. However, the reason for the discharge was “misconduct,” even though five high-ranking officers and enlisted personnel wrote recommendations vouching for his performance and character.
One Major wrote on Schaefer’s behalf, “Based on my long-standing professional relationship with SSgt Schaefer across multiple units and MOSS, I can confidently say that he consistently produces high quality work, regardless of the task or assignment. His leadership, professionalism, and technical expertise both in his previous duties as a Huey crew chief, as well as his current role as an intelligence Marine, have demonstrated that he is an incredible talented Marine who is able to flourish in a variety of occupational specialties.”
The USMC charged Schaefer $17,878.23, as the remaining balance of the bonus he was given for reenlisting, after they took away his last paycheck, leaving his family without money to transition to civilian life. He is now paying the military $504.31 per month. If he doesn’t pay each month, the military stated they would contact a collection agency. As a result, Schaefer was forced to move his family of four in with his parents because they could not afford their own housing.
Schaefer has been committed to his military career and knows the importance of defending his country. His great grandfather was a war hero who fought in World War II in the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Tarawa. The Battle of Tarawa was fought on November 20–23, 1943 and was the first time that the United States had faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. In this war, nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died. However, Schaeffer’s great grandfather was only one of four survivors of his platoon.
On February 1, 2023 Liberty Counsel filed a response to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) motion to dismiss the case involving 15 plaintiffs and members of the class action lawsuit currently serving in the United States Marine Corps who oppose the COVID shot mandate. The DOD has argued that the case should be dismissed now that the DOD has been required to rescind the shot mandate.
In Colonel Financial Management Officer, United States Marine Corps, et al., v. Lloyd Austin, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Defense, et al., Liberty Counsel requests that Judge Merryday deny the DOD’s motion to dismiss and set a trial for prompt adjudication of the plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory relief and a permanent injunction.
Liberty Counsel argues that the case is not moot because Secretary Austin retains the authority to reinstate a COVID-19 shot mandate at any moment, supports the mandate, refuses to acknowledge that the rubber stamp denials violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and has left open the door to reinstate the mandate. In fact, all the NDAA required was that the August 24 memorandum be rescinded. According to his memo, Secretary Austin “will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all Service members.” In addition, the policy for reviewing and granting religious accommodations clearly violated RFRA and that same policy and practice is not affected by the NDAA. A permanent injunction and declaratory relief is necessary to stop the ongoing violation of RFRA.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Repealing the COVID shot mandate for military members does not end the abuse our service members have endured. Our military members who love God and America have been horribly abused and they must be honored again. The Biden administration must push the reset button, stop the abuse, and rectify the wrongs done to our brave military heroes.”