Court Grants Air Force Service Members Relief from Shot Mandate

Jul 14, 2022

CINCINNATI, OH — A federal district court in Ohio has granted a temporary restraining order for the entire class of the U.S Air Force against the unlawful Department of Defense COVID shot mandate. Thousands of these service members who oppose receiving the shot due to their sincerely held religious beliefs have been denied their religious exemptions. 

In his order for Hunter Doster, et al. v. Hon Frank Kendall, et al., Judge Matthew McFarland stated that, “All active-duty and active reserve members of the United States Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Cadets, Members of the Air Force Reserve Command, and any Airman who has sworn or affirmed the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office and is currently under command and could be deployed, who: (i) submitted a religious accommodation request to the Air Force from the Air Force's COVID-19 vaccination requirement, where the request was submitted or was pending, from September 1, 2021 to the present; (ii) were confirmed as having had a sincerely held religious belief by or through Air Force Chaplains; and (iii) either had their requested accommodation denied or have not had action on that request” are covered in the temporary restraining order. 

Judge McFarland also wrote, “The proposed class satisfies the (b)(2) requirement. Defendants' attempt to characterize the relief sought as hinging on individualized determinations concerning their religious accommodation requests and sincerely held religious beliefs. But the relief the proposed class seeks is the same: a religious accommodation relating to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. And they have been harmed in ‘essentially the same way.’”

“They face separation from the Air Force and other disciplinary measures. A single injunction would provide relief to the entire class. Indeed, the main purpose of a (b)(2) class is to provide relief through a single injunction or declaratory judgment. Because Defendants have uniformly maintained a policy of overriding Airmen's religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine, they have acted ‘on grounds that apply generally to the class.’ Moreover, the class definition requires that a Chaplain certify that the airman's religious beliefs are sincerely held. Finally, a single injunction would provide the proposed class with the relief they seek from the harm they stand to suffer,” the court wrote. 

The Department of Defense has until July 21 to file a brief arguing why the temporary restraining order should not be extended into a preliminary injunction. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great decision that grants protection for the religious freedom for all Air Force personnel from Joe Biden’s unlawful COVID shot mandate. No service member should be required to choose between service to the country and service to God. Liberty Counsel will be pursuing class-wide protection for the remaining branches of the military.” 

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