Court Grants Marine Captain Immediate Relief From Shot Mandate

Apr 1, 2022

TAMPA, FL — Today, federal Judge Steven Merryday granted a temporary restraining order in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin for a United States Marine Corps Captain who faced punishment after the military rejected his appeal from a denial for a religious accommodation from the shot mandate. The U.S. Marine Corps ordered the Captain to accept the COVID-19 vaccination no later than today or face “punitive and/or administrative action.” 

This USMC Captain enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2014, graduating from recruit training in March 2015. After serving with a Law Enforcement Battalion and earning his undergraduate degree, USMC Captain was selected for Officer Candidate School, and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2016. After graduating from The Basic School, he attended the Military Police Basic Officer Course, with his first duty assignment at a Marine Corps Law Enforcement Battalion as a Platoon Commander.  He has attended courses in Norway and commanded a Military Police Integrated Company during a NATO Exercise and has been deployed in several locations, including Africa.  USMC Captain desires to continue serving in the Marine Corps, consistent with his Islamic religious beliefs that require him to abstain from participation in that which is haram—forbidden—including the destruction and commoditization of innocent human life as exemplified by the commercial use of human fetal cell lines derived from abortions.

Today’s injunction states “the defendants are temporarily enjoined (1) from enforcing against USMC Captain any order or regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination and (2) from any retaliatory action as a result of, or arising from, USMC Captain’s requesting a religious accommodation, appealing the denial of a request for a religious accommodation, or pursuing this action or any other action for relief under RFRA or the First Amendment.” 

On February 18, Judge Merryday granted a preliminary injunction for two service members in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin who were denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate. The 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. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great victory for this U.S. Marine Corps Captain who was denied a religious exemption from the shot mandate. Liberty Counsel is honored to continue this legal fight for our courageous military members. Every service member deserves protection from this abusive shot mandate.” 

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