Dozens of US Navy Seals File Lawsuit After Being Denied Religious Exemption for Vaccine Mandate
22:38 GMT 09.11.2021 (Updated: 12:45 GMT 13.04.2023)
© AFP 2023 / JON CHERRYPreventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a soldier on September 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Pentagon, with the support of military leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden, mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all military service members in early September. The Pentagon stresses inoculation from COVID-19 and other diseases to avoid outbreaks from impeding the fighting force of the US Military.
© AFP 2023 / JON CHERRY
The administration’s recent measure to boost vaccinations among civil servants and military personnel to combat the coronavirus surge has raised concerns over the strict sanctions that the unvaccinated could face as well staff shortages, especially in some crucial agencies.
Around 40 acting US Navy SEALs filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense for not giving them vaccination exemptions on religious grounds, Fox News reported on Monday, citing the legal action.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that mandatory vaccination violates their constitutional rights, including First Amendment freedoms and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
All servicemen listed in the document and represented by the First Liberty Institute were said to be Christians of various denominations and refuse to get a jab due to "their sincerely held religious beliefs." As a result, the SEALs were reportedly designated as "non-deployable."
“Threat of non-deployability substantially pressures Plaintiffs to take an action (receiving a COVID-19 vaccine) that would violate their religious beliefs,” the lawsuit reads.
The religious exemptions for vaccination are mostly based on beliefs against abortion, as the compound is "tested or produced using aborted fetal cell lines."
According to Fox, the SEALs, “especially in their capacity as the military's most elite fighting force, hold the belief that the "human body is God's temple," and as such, they carefully monitor everything that they take into their bodies and are "compelled to avoid anything that adversely alters or may modify their bodies’ natural functions in a manner not designed by God."
Some younger SEALs are also concerned with the vaccine’s side effects, which include a higher risk of myocarditis, a potentially fatal disease observed among some younger vaccinated males.
None of the plaintiffs have received an exemption on religious grounds, however, some were reportedly allowed to avoid getting the jab for medical reasons. Apart from that, a number of servicemen were officially warned that those unvaccinated on personal or religious beliefs "will be disqualified from [special operator] duty (unless the disqualification is separately waived by BUMED). This will affect deployment and special pays."
According to Michael Berry, First Liberty Institute's general counsel and Lt. Col. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, the vaccine mandate is having a negative impact on national security.
"After all the sacrifices these elite warriors made to defend our freedoms, the Navy is now threatening their careers, families, and finances. It’s appalling and it has to stop before any more harm is done to our national security,” he noted. "Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values."
Department of Defense spokesperson Patricia Kreuzberger said that all servicemen are able to seek religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations and the requests are “considered in keeping with current Navy policy."
Along with other military branches, all US Navy servicemen were required to be fully vaccinated by November 28. The deadline for reserve service was set for December 28. Currently, 99.4 percent of the US Navy is said to be vaccinated.