Liberty Counsel filed a memo today urging federal Judge Steven Merryday to issue a class-wide preliminary injunction in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin for the entire class of the service members in every branch of the military and provide relief from the unlawful shot mandates.
Liberty Counsel represents plaintiffs from all branches of the military who were denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate.
The legal memorandum of law argues that the request for class certification meets all the legal requirements and is necessary to prevent irreparable harm. The legal brief also states that Liberty Counsel is working directly with 1,061 service members, of which 384 have received denials. The class certification requests protection for the more than 24,000 service members who have filed a Religious Accommodation Request and have been denied. The memo states in part:
“Every day our staff communicates with service members and their spouses. Every week one of our attorneys communicates with hundreds of service members on conference calls in which they share heart-wrenching stories of the pressure, abuse, and unlawful violations of their religious free exercise rights protected under the First Amendment and RFRA. We can affirm to this Court that these service members are desperate. Very desperate. Some have self-admitted to the ER because of the overwhelming stress they face. Each day they hope for this Court to grant class certification, so they too can have similar court-ordered protection as do some of the Plaintiffs in this case. However, each day that passes their hopes fade as they wait, and wait, and wait for relief. These honorable service members are looking to this Court for relief. This Court has before it the only case in which there is a class certification request that covers every branch of the military.”
Liberty Counsel’s legal memorandum of law concludes with these words:
“Plaintiffs could come to this Court each day with a new emergency motion seeking injunctive relief to prevent the harm that is imminently facing each service member who has requested accommodation for their sincerely held religious beliefs. Absent class-wide relief, the list grows every day, the harm increases every day, and servicemembers face separation and discipline every day. Only class-wide relief can prevent this irreparable harm from occurring to the heroes who sacrifice all so that the Nation would enjoy religious freedom. They merely ask that we return the favor and uphold the law for which they are willing to sacrifice even their lives. We urge this Court to use the pen to protect those who carry the sword.”
The brief also overviews the many plaintiffs and putative class members that are currently facing irreparable harm and who need immediate relief.
Below is a sample of the consequences facing plaintiffs, putative class members, and service members seeking a religious accommodation:
- Plaintiff Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps, has been forced into the Individual Ready Reserve, which made her inactive, unable to drill, unable to earn points towards advancement or benefits, and imposed substantial burdens on her religious beliefs;
- Plaintiffs Captain 2 and Captain 3, United States Marine Corps, have been removed from Expeditionary War School a mere 75 days from graduation, and been placed on the Officer Disciplinary Notebook, which is a fatal blow to a Marine’s career, and Captain 2 has been slated for a Board of Inquiry, which is the last step in the separation process;
- Plaintiff First Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps, has been relieved of his command, ordered to attend a Transition Readiness Seminar, and issued a Report of Misconduct and Notification of Separation with a recommendation that he be immediately separated from the Marine Corps for failure to accept a COVID-19 shot that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs;
- Plaintiff Chaplain, United States Air Force, has sustained a Letter of Counseling and a Letter of Reprimand for failing to accept a COVID-19 shot in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs, and has been removed him from instructor duty responsibilities and assigned behind-the-scenes duties, which precludes him from engaging in his duties to tend to the sincerely held religious beliefs of Air Force service members (ironically for following his own sincerely held religious beliefs);
- Plaintiff Reserve Lieutenant Colonel 1, United States Air Force, has been issued a Letter of Reprimand for failure to obey an order to vaccinate and sent her to Individual Ready Reserve, denying her a Board of Inquiry, access to the Transition Assistance Program and a referral to a medical specialist at a military medical center;
- Plaintiff Reserve Lieutenant Colonel 2, United States Air Force, has been issued a Letter of Reprimand, issued a negative referral for Officer Performance Report, and has been posted to the Unfavorable Information File, which begins the process of separating him from the Active Guard Reserve and involuntarily transferring him to the Individual Ready Reserve;
- Plaintiff Master Sergeant Sere Specialist, United States Air Force, has been removed from his leadership position, issued two separate Letters of Reprimand, effectively beginning his separation process, all while requiring him to continue as “mission essential personnel” for the execution and carrying on of critical mission requirements;
- Putative Class Member Lance Corporal Administrative Specialist, United States Marine Corps, was separated from military service for her failure to receive a COVID-19 shot that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs;
- Putative Class Member Captain 4, United States Marine Corps, was removed from command, issued an administrative counseling order, and was given a written promotion hold, effectively ending his career;
- Putative Class Member Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, was served with Article 90 violation papers and administrative separation papers for failure to receive a COVID-19 injection that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs;
- Putative Class Member Major 1, United States Air Force, has been stripped of all duties and titles, removed from flight status and his $1,000 per month flight pay, and notified that he is going to be placed on the Individual Ready Reserve;
- Putative Class Member Tech Sergeant, United States Air Force, has been given three separate orders to vaccinate or separate, despite his sincerely held religious beliefs, and expects that, despite 18.5 years of service, he will be involuntarily separated from the military at any moment;
- Putative Class Member Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel 2 was given a Notification of Involuntary Reassignment – Non-participating Individual Ready Reserve from his commander recommending him for an involuntary reassignment to the Individual Ready Reserve and faces impending separation;
- Putative Class Member ROTC Midshipman, United States Navy, has received an order from the Navy disenrolling him from college and placing him on leave of absence pending disenrollment; and
- Putative Class Member Brigadier General (SELECT), United States Air Force, Director of Cyberspace Operations and Warfighter Communications was forced to retire at a lower rank (after 26 years of service) rather than violate her sincerely held religious beliefs.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The U.S. military will continue to lose highly qualified and experienced personnel simply because they choose to serve God and America. With more than 24,000 servicemembers expecting denials of their religious accommodations, every service member deserves protection from this unlawful abuse.”