Air Force Cadet Gets Court-Ordered Relief from Shot Mandate

Apr 25, 2022

TAMPA, FL — Today, federal Judge Steven Merryday granted a temporary restraining order in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin for a U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet who faced immediate discipline after being denied his appeal for a religious accommodation from the COVID shot mandate. The preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for April 28. 

The Cadet believes that God has called him to serve in the Air Force, and, like thousands of other service members, he objects to the COVID shots because of his sincerely held religious belief. 

On March 30, 2022, the Air Force ordered the Cadet to choose between the COVID-19 vaccination or “voluntary” resignation from the Air Force Academy within five calendar days or face “disciplinary action” and “initiation of administrative separation.” The Air Force then extended the Cadet’s compliance deadline to April 25.

The Cadet testified, “After I initiated the process to request a religious accommodation from vaccination, I had a counseling with my commander on August 13, 2021, with the stated purpose ‘to discuss if you even qualify and what the process is.’ My commander, however, did not discuss the process or possible accommodations with me. Instead, he ‘managed my expectations’ by constantly telling me I would not win; by recommending an AF Form 34 (Discharge from the Air Force) if I would not get the vaccine; and by attempting to guilt trip me into getting the vaccine.” 

Judge Merryday has now granted injunctions for four service members 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 has already asked Judge Merryday to certify the entire class of the military and provide relief from the unlawful shot mandates to all class members in every branch. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great victory for this U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet who was denied a religious exemption from the shot mandate. Every service member deserves protection from this abusive shot mandate, and we will continue to fight for their freedom.” 

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