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Cypriot Navy special forces and US Navy SEALS take part in a joint US-Cyprus rescue exercise in the port of the southern Cypriot port city of Limassol on Sept. 10.

Cypriot Navy special forces and US Navy SEALS take part in a joint US-Cyprus rescue exercise in the port of the southern Cypriot port city of Limassol on Sept. 10. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou – AFP / Getty Images)

 By Randy DeSoto  January 3, 2022 at 5:09pm

A federal district judge granted a preliminary injunction Monday against the enforcement of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate against U.S. Navy SEALs.

Thirty-five Navy Special Warfare service members sued President Joe Biden in November 2021 stating that his directive for them to get vaccinated or face possible court martial or involuntary separation violates their First Amendment right to religious liberty and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993).

Texas-based judge Reed O’Connor noted in his order that RFRA specifically provides the, “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

O’Connor, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, determined that the vaccine mandate substantially burdens the SEALs religious beliefs and the government has not shown requiring them to be vaccinated is the least restrictive means for furthering its interest of a healthy fighting force.

“By all accounts, Plaintiffs have safely carried out their jobs during the pandemic. Prior to the vaccine mandate, at least six Plaintiffs conducted large-scale trainings and led courses without incident,” he wrote.

Breaking: Federal district court in Fort Worth grants preliminary injunction in favor of U.S. Navy Seals who sued Biden administration over denial of religious exemptions for military COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Background: https://t.co/dJTl8FwCha

Order: https://t.co/gCcUxgs7GF

— Daniel Friend (@DanielJFriend) January 3, 2022

Further, “Even if Defendants have a broad compelling interest in widespread vaccination of its force, they have achieved this goal without the participation of the thirty-five Plaintiffs here.”

“At least 99.4% of all active-duty Navy servicemembers have been vaccinated.”

Will more vaccine mandates be shut down?

Reed highlighted that the Navy has granted exemptions for non-religious reasons, such as allergies or those participating in other clinical trials, and still allowed the sailors to deploy.

The 35 SEALs who have requested religious exemptions have cited their opposition to the use of aborted fetal cell lines in the development or manufacturing of the vaccines and their belief that “modifying one’s body is an afront to the Creator,” among other issues.

“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor wrote in his order.

“The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

BREAKING: Federal judge just granted temporary injunction to group of Navy SEALS seeking religious exemption from vaccine mandate. Judge Reed O’Connor: “There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

— Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) January 3, 2022

First Liberty Institute, which is representing the SEALs in the suit, celebrated the court’s ruling.

“Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a news release.

“Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive.

“We’re pleased that the court has acted to protect our brave warriors before more damage is done to our national security.”

Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book “We Hold These Truths” and screenwriter of the political documentary “I Want Your Money.”

Birthplace

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Nationality

American

Honors/Awards

Graduated dean’s list from West Point

Education

United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law

Books Written

We Hold These Truths

Professional Memberships

Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars

Location

Phoenix, Arizona

Languages Spoken

English

Topics of Expertise

Politics, Entertainment, Faith

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