Meanwhile, 3 Air Force Academy cadets who refused vaccine won’t be commissioned.
Nine members of the U.S. Air Force have filed a class action lawsuit asserting the government violated their rights when it stripped them of their duties and denied them promotions after they refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious reasons.
Fist Liberty Institute and law firm Schaerr Jaffe LLP filed the lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Air Force on Friday afternoon on behalf of the service members, who represent about 2% of the Air Force members who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The filing alleges that the Department of Defense is violating the First Amendment rights of the service members by imposing a vaccine mandate that “substantially burdens” free exercise of religion, despite granting hundreds of administrative and medical exemptions. In addition, the lawsuit argues that the government does not have a compelling interest and has not provided service members other less restrictive manners in which to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“At a time of instability and ever-increasing threats around the world, you’d think the Pentagon would want every service member at their post. But instead, military leaders are forcing tens of thousands of our bravest out of the service because they’ve chosen to live according to their faith,” First Liberty Institute’s Mike Berry told Fox News Digital.
The lawsuit names the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, and Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall as defendants.
I would like to point out that despite being vaccinated and boosted, Austin still managed to contract a case of covid from which he seems to have recovered without significant jeopardy to our military.
The Air Force members suing have non-trivial reasons for rejecting the vaccine.
Two of the plaintiffs say their religious beliefs prohibit them from receiving any vaccine tested or produced using aborted fetal cell lines, according to the class action. Others say they believe the mRNA technology used in some COVID-19 vaccines violates God’s creation of the human genome.
Two of the service members claim they received medical exemptions to the vaccination mandate because of allergies to two ingredients in the vaccine, but both say they had their medical exemptions revoked after the Air Force deemed their allergy test results insufficient.
Fist Liberty Institute is also representing Navy SEALS in a similar lawsuit. There has been recent success in that case, as the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas expanded the lawsuit and issued a preliminary injunction issued to include every U.S. Navy service member who requested a religious accommodation from the vaccine mandate.
This decision stops the Department of Defense from punishing any Navy personnel who have religious objections to the mandate.
“Here, the potential class members have suffered the ‘same injury,’ arising from violations of their constitutional rights,” Judge Reed O’Connor said in his ruling. “Each has submitted a religious accommodation request, and each has had his request denied, delayed, or dismissed on appeal. Exactly zero requests have been granted.
And while Defendants encourage this Court to disregard the data, it is hard to imagine a more consistent display of discrimination. As previously explained in this Court’s preliminary injunction order, Plaintiffs have suffered the serious injury of infringement of their religious liberty rights under RFRA and the First Amendment.”
Meanwhile, there is an update on the U.S. Air Force Academy cadets poised for graduation but who did not want to get a covid vaccination. Three of them have been allowed to graduate with degrees, but they were not commissioned.
Academy spokesman Dean Miller said that a fourth cadet who had refused the vaccine until about a week ago, decided to be vaccinated and will graduate and become an Air Force officer.
In a statement, Miller said that while the three will get a degree “they will not be commissioned into the United States Air Force as long as they remain unvaccinated.” He added that a decision on whether to require the three to reimburse the United States for education costs in lieu of service will be made by the secretary of the Air Force.
As of Saturday, the Air Force is the only military academy, so far, where cadets are not being commissioned due to vaccine refusal. All of the more than 1,000 Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduated and were commissioned as officers earlier in the day and all were vaccinated.
The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, said Saturday that none of the Navy or Marine Corps seniors there are being prevented from commissioning due to vaccine refusals. That graduation is later this week, and the Air Force ceremony is Wednesday in Colorado. Ahead of that ceremony, the U.S. Air Force Academy Board conducted its standard review of whether this year’s class had met all graduation requirements on Friday.
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