Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of 35 U.S. Navy Seals, granting a Motion for Preliminary Injunction that prevents the Navy from denying their request for a religious exemption from the COVID vaccination. In addition, Judge O’Connor also ruled, “Defendants are also enjoined from taking any adverse action against Plaintiffs on the basis of Plaintiffs’ requests for religious accommodation.”
Judge O’Connor made it very clear that constitutionally protected rights must always take precedence over competing interests. He said, “The Plaintiffs’ loss of religious liberties outweighs any forthcoming harm to the Navy. Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights.”
“Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights.”
Judge O’Connor, in his ruling, noted what was at stake. “Our nation asks the men and women in our military to serve, suffer, and sacrifice. But we do not ask them to lay aside their citizenry and give up the very rights they have sworn to protect. Every president since the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has praised the men and women of the military for their bravery and service in protecting the freedoms this country guarantees.
In this case, members of the military seek protection under those very freedoms. Thirty-
five Navy Special Warfare servicemembers allege that the military’s mandatory vaccination policy violates their religious freedoms under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater.
The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubberstamps each denial. 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. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution. Having considered the briefing, oral argument, relevant facts, and applicable law, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction should be and is hereby GRANTED.”