A federal judge has blocked the Department of Defense (DoD) from taking punitive action against a group of Navy SEALs and special operations soldiers who refused to get vaccinated against COVID on religious grounds, reported Reuters.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor noted that the DoD has yet to approve a single religious objection to vaccination.
“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms,” the judge wrote in a 26-page decision according to Reuters.
The lawsuit was filed by First Liberty Institute on behalf of 35 service members.
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
Some have said that the decision not to grant religious exemptions for vaccination is an attempt to purge the military from what the Biden administration considers “unreliable” elements.
“There’s something fundamentally wrong at this point with our nation’s leadership,” a major with more than 17 years of active service told Fox News on the condition of anonymity. “We are facing an unconstitutional edict that I think is very targeted as a political purge, taking out some of the best and brightest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardians from the Space Force.”
Service members who refused to get the vaccine are discharged involuntarily for refusal to follow lawful orders and may be subject to repayment of pay and other benefits, said CNN.
“For those who refused to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders will continue to take appropriate administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with law and Department of the Air Force policy,” the service said in a statement according to CNN.
For some long-standing service members, it has shaken their faith in government.
“The one message I got from the colonel above me was: ‘Tread very carefully, this is political, you will be crushed like an ant,’” one anonymous lieutenant colonel told Fox News. “And he told me that because he cares about me. Do I want to continue serving in an institution that crushes people for bringing up reasonable points in defending their faith?”