DOD Loses Bid To Set Aside Injunction

Mar 30, 2022

ATLANTA, GA — The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Department of Defense’s (DOD) request to set aside a preliminary injunction issued for Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel 2 and Navy Command Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin. 

The DOD and the respective military branches requested a total reversal of Judge Steven Merryday’s preliminary injunction, raising various arguments that have been rejected by several courts. The Court of Appeals declined to set aside the injunction. 

Today’s decision by the Court of Appeals that granted a partial stay pending appeal is limited. This decision followed the recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Navy SEALS 1-26 that states the partial stay is only “insofar as it precludes the Navy from considering respondents’ vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.”

The DOD and the respective military branches are still enjoined “(1) from enforcing against Navy Commander and Lieutenant Colonel 2 any order or regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination and (2) from any adverse or retaliatory action against Navy Commander and Lieutenant Colonel 2 as a result of, arising from, or in conjunction with Navy Commander’s or Lieutenant Colonel 2’s requesting a religious exemption, appealing the denial of a request for a religious exemption, requesting reconsideration of the denial of a religious exemption, or pursuing this action or any other action for relief under RFRA or the First Amendment.” Deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions must not be retaliatory against their exercise of religious freedom. 

The DOD and the military cannot force the COVID shots and cannot discharge personnel because they remain unvaccinated for religious reasons. 

The case before the Court of Appeals and at the District Court is ongoing. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We are pleased that the Court of Appeals rejected the Department of Defense’s request to set aside the injunction. The military is not above the law and must accommodate service members who refuse the COVID shots for religious reasons. We continue to seek relief for all of our plaintiffs and the entire class representing members of all branches of the military who filed religious accommodation requests. Justice requires vindication of their religious free exercise protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.” 

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