Federal Judge Slams Defense Dept. and Marine Corps, Grants Class-Action Status in Vaccine Mandate Case
Order delays court-martial for Japan-based Marine.
How It Started: The Department of Defense dutifully enacted Biden’s vaccine mandate and had what eventually morphed into “zero tolerance” policies for service members requesting religious exemptions or who had already had COVID19.
U.S District Court Judge Steven Merryday issued a blistering rebuke of the Department of Defense and Marine Corps for refusing to grant religious accommodation requests to service members.
Merryday did so when issuing a 48-page ruling Thursday in which he granted class-action status for all active and reserve U.S. Marine Corps service men and women in a lawsuit filed against the Secretary of Defense over the department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
He also issued a classwide preliminary injunction against the Department of Defense and the U.S. Marine Corps, prohibiting them “from enforcing against a member of the class any order, requirement, or rule to accept COVID-19 vaccination; from separating or discharging from the Marine Corps a member of the class who declines COVID-19 vaccination; and from retaliating against a member of the class for the member’s asserting statutory rights under RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
The class includes everyone “on active duty or in the ready reserve who serve under the command of the Marine Corps; who were affirmed by a chaplain as harboring a sincere religious objection; who timely submitted an initial request for a religious accommodation; who were denied the initial request; who timely appealed the denial of the initial request; and who were denied or will be denied after appeal.”
A copy of the ruling is HERE.
The judge noted that 3,733 Marines had requested religious accommodations from receiving the COVID-19 shot ordered by the Secretary of Defense Austin in August 2021.
Yet the Marine Corps has granted only 11 accommodations which included only those who are due for retirement and prompt separation.
Then the court posed the question: “Is it more likely than not — in nearly all 3,733 cases —that no reasonable accommodation was available?”
“Because the record reveals the substantial likelihood of a systemic failure by the Marine Corps to discharge the obligations established by RFRA, a class-wide preliminary injunction is warranted to preserve the status quo, to permit the full development of the record without prejudice to the plaintiffs, and to permit both a trial and a detailed, fact-based resolution of the controlling issues of fact and law,” Merryday wrote.
“When Congress acts to preserve liberty, especially a liberty historically and constitutionally fundamental to the United States, the courts — the intended preserve of liberty — must not evade or equivocate, must not, so to speak, sacrifice the fundamental right of thousands of privates to Free Exercise in order to gratify the preference of a few generals,” the court continued.
The ruling means an indefinite trial delay for a Japan-based Marine who allegedly skipped two flights stateside to face discharge for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Arnett claims her prosecution stems from the fact that she refused the COVID-19 vaccine mandated last year by the Marine Corps and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. She based her refusal to board those flights in her belief the vaccine mandate is unlawful, she said in an online interview with an anti-vaccination group, Children’s Health Defense, in July.
“My lawyer was able to brilliantly tie the logic together with my decisions on May 7 and May 14 inextricably to the vaccine mandate, which is what I had been trying to have done all along,” she said, referring to the scheduled flights.
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