The U.S. Senate passed 83-11 the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an $858 billion bill that funds national defense and rescinds the military’s COVID shot mandate. However, the Senate defeated 54-40 an amendment to reinstate service members who were already separated or had their benefits cut for not receiving the COVID injection.
Repealing the shot mandate is not enough. The Department of Defense (DOD) has gone on record stating that service members who applied for a religious accommodation (which is their right under the law) set a bad example and undermined military readiness. In other words, those who give their lives to defend the Constitution and the laws of the land should be punished for requesting that their rights be protected under the very laws they defend.
Repealing the mandate going forward will not undo the punishment already inflicted and it will not restore the thousands of service members who love God and love America to the military where they are desperately needed. Liberty Counsel will continue to defend these defenders of freedom and seek justice for them against Biden’s abusive mandate.
The NDAA heads to the White House where Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law. Last week he vigorously opposed repealing the shot mandate.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) were among the leaders who hoped to get the approximately 8,400 service members who had been discharged for refusing the shot reinstated. Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mike Rounds of South Dakota voted against the amendment.
Yesterday, Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Dr. Pete Chambers, and his military dog, “GI Joe,” joined Liberty Counsel Senior Counsel for Governmental Affairs Jonathan Alexandre to speak with senators about the NDAA and the military COVID shot mandate. Dr. Chambers was injured from the Moderna shot and was forced to retire from the military because he speaks out about the harms to our troops from the shot. He also shared his compelling testimony in Liberty Counsel’s military hearing in federal court last March. Dr. Chambers had to medically retire this year from his Moderna injury after serving 39 years in the US. Army. He was one of only six Green Beret Flight Surgeons in the world.
Liberty Counsel is continuing to pursue permanent injunctions against the Department of Defense’s flawed religious accommodation policy for immunizations, in order to prevent the DOD from reinstituting a similar shot mandate, and to undo the adverse treatment against service members who filed religious accommodation requests.
On Wednesday, Mat Staver argued at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Marines and a Navy Commander of a Warship who have been denied religious accommodations from the unconstitutional COVID shot mandate. Then in January 2023, Liberty Counsel will return to federal court seeking to convert the classwide preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction for the U.S. Marines.
Before the military COVID shot mandate was issued on August 24, 2021, the DOD issued a religious accommodation request (RAR) policy related to immunization. Applying this RAR policy to the COVID-19 shot mandate, it is clear that the DOD and the military branches violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). Under RFRA, the military must satisfy the compelling interest and least restrictive means test to the person. Multiple courts have indicated the military violates this stringent requirement of RFRA by refusing to examine each service member individually. Instead, the military issues generalized statements to justify the mandate. Since this RAR policy applies to all immunizations, not just COVID-19, the policy must be enjoined and the DOD must comply with RFRA.
In addition, the DOD must be permanently enjoined from retaliating against the service members who submitted a request for religious accommodation, and all service members who were punished, demoted or discharged must be reinstated and their records corrected.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Repealing the COVID shot mandate for military members is not enough. A permanent injunction and more action is needed to reverse the punishment already inflicted upon our service members. Joe Biden and the Department of Defense must be stopped from ever violating service members’ religious freedom rights. The military must comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In addition, all service members who have been punished, demoted, and discharged must be reinstated and their records cleared. Our military members who love God and America have been horribly abused and they must be honored again.”