DOD’s Shot Mandate Violates the Law

Mar 15, 2022

TAMPA, FL — Liberty Counsel filed a response to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) attempt to stop the preliminary injunction granted by federal Judge Steven Merryday for two service members in the Navy SEAL 1 case. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel 2 and Navy Command Surface Warfare Officer’s final religious accommodation appeals were denied and they were ordered to receive a COVID-19 shot within days or be subject to discipline for disobeying an order. 

Liberty Counsel argues that the Court of Appeals should deny the motion because the DOD cannot satisfy the requirements for obtaining a stay. After Judge Merryday ordered each branch of the military to file a detailed report regarding religious exemptions from the COVID-19 shot every 14 days beginning Friday, January 7, 2022, the documents prove that the military continues to deny religious exemptions while granting medical exemptions. 

The federal district court based its ruling on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), finding that the Marines and the Navy failed to demonstrate “to the individualized person” two of RFRA’s essential requirements on government action that burdens a person’s sincere religious belief – a compelling interest and the least restrictive means. This conclusion alone will essentially undo the blanket requirement placed on service members to get the COVID shots when such action burdens their sincere religious beliefs.

During the hearing last week, Liberty Counsel presented testimony that the COVID shots are neither safe nor effective, that the mandate is undermining military readiness and harming morale, and that there are less restrictive means to address COVID than universal vaccination. Liberty Counsel also presented testimony that there are safe and effective means of treating COVID and preserving military readiness.  

Liberty Counsel presented compelling testimony from the Navy Commander and three military flight surgeons, Lt. Col. Peter Chambers, Lt. Col. Teresa Long and Col. (Ret.) Stewart Tankersley. 

In contrast, the DOD declined to present witnesses.    

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Department of Defense continues its arrogant stance toward a court of law and ignoring religious accommodations for our service members. Every military branch has violated the Constitution and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act with this unlawful COVID shot mandate. Our service members do not have to choose between their Christian convictions and their service to our nation. We will continue to defend them until we gain freedom for every branch.” 

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