Navy Commander in Full Command of His Ship

Mar 14, 2022

TAMPA, FL — On March 11, Judge Steven Merryday denied the Department of Defense’s (DOD) request for a stay of the court’s preliminary injunction in the case of Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin. 

During the hearing, the Navy Commander Surface Warfare Officer’s (Commander) testimony specifically refuted the false statement by a Navy Commodore who said the Commander’s ship could not be used and would have to be kept in port. 

The Commodore previously stated in a sworn declaration that he “lost confidence” in the Commander because he did not take the COVID shots. Then he filed another sworn declaration stating he did not lose confidence in him because of his vaccination status, but because he went “out of area” to defend his religious freedom in a Florida federal court hearing. His “out of area” leave was previously approved by the same Commodore. Both declarations cannot be correct. One is false. It is clear which one. 

The Commodore filed another false sworn declaration when he said due to his “lost confidence,” the Commander’s ship could not be deployed so long as the Commander was in command of the ship. This too was false. At the hearing on March 10, the Commander testified that when the Commodore filed declaration that the Commander’s ship was sidelined and would remain in port because of the “lost confidence,” the Commander was in full command of his ship far out to sea taking the ship and the sailors through testing and training drills.

Liberty Counsel put the Commander on the witness stand last Thursday and asked him, “On February 28th, when the defendants filed this motion stating that your destroyer was indefinitely sidelined and effectively out of commission, where were you?” 

The Commander then testified, “I was commanding my warship on a two-week underway period conducting training exercises.” 

He continued, “This past two-week underway, we were specifically doing engineering training and certifications to make sure we knew how to do engineering evolutions, drills, and combat main space fire. We did that all successfully. We finished that actually a day early over that two-week period, and we were moving very well in accordance of the assessment team that was onboard to evaluate us. Most ships, and this is from the assessor's point of view that I got, don't always finish that on time…My ship celebrated that victory for getting through our engineering drills and certifications that we were required to complete in that window.” 

The Navy Commander also testified that he was in command of the ship throughout this training exercise and that his vaccination status had no effect on the ship’s training qualifications. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said: “Our brave military plaintiffs won in court last week against the Department of Defense’s unlawful violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Department of Defense is not above the law. The Navy Commander’s testimony set the record straight that he fully commanded his ship at sea despite the misrepresentation communicated by the Commodore. The misrepresentations of fact and the disregard of the law by the Department of Defense is shocking.” 

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