Dozens of Republican lawmakers have filed a legal brief in support of a group of Navy SEALs who have sued the Department of Defense seeking a religious exemption to the coronavirus vaccination mandate.
Twenty-six Navy SEALs, five special warfare combatant craft crewmen, three Navy divers, and an explosive ordnance disposal technician are the plaintiffs, while President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Department of Defense, and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro were named as the defendants in the suit that was filed last month. The suit will be heard in federal court Monday.
NO RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS TO COVID-19 VACCINE APPROVED AMONG ARMED FORCES DESPITE OVER 12,000 REQUESTS
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the 47 lawmakers who signed on to the brief on Monday.
“Plaintiffs’ religious liberty and the government’s asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote in the brief. “They are only in conflict here because Defendants refuse to accommodate Plaintiffs’ religious objections even as they accommodate those who will not receive the vaccine for non-religious reasons.”
Each of the SEALs or sailors are either Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant, and as such, they have “sincerely held religious beliefs forbid each of them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for a variety of reasons based upon their Christian faith as revealed through the Holy Bible and prayerful discernment,” according to the suit.
None of the service branches have granted any religious exemptions, even though more than 12,000 service members applied. Every active-duty service member had to be vaccinated already.
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Those who haven’t gotten vaccinated face removal from their jobs, though it would be through no less than a general discharge order.
The SEALs don’t object to standard COVID-19 precautions, including wearing a mask, social distancing, regular testing, and teleworking, according to the lawsuit. Mike Berry, who is representing the SEALs, previously told the Washington Examiner that the lawsuit isn't seeking to get the entire vaccination mandate overturned — rather, they are seeking to get the military to approve religious exemptions.
The America First Policy Institute, a policy group backed by former President Donald Trump, previously filed an amicus brief on the SEALs' behalf.