A federal judge temporary suspended Joe Biden’s administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates for U.S. Navy SEALs.
Judge Reed O’Connor, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Texas, blocked Biden’s mandates on Monday in response to a lawsuit filed by the First Liberty Institute on behalf of the Navy SEALs denied religious exemption.
“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor wrote in his ruling.
He continued, “The Covid-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no Covid-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
The First Liberty Institute sued Biden on behalf of the 35 Navy SEALs and three reservists who were denied religious exemption from the vaccine mandates by the Defense Department.
The SEAL plaintiffs, who collectively have more than 350 years of service with over 100 combat deployments, claimed that Navy officials threatened to court martial and discharge them from active service if they were not vaccinated.
Officials also reportedly threatened to confiscate their special badges if they sought religious exemption, including their SEAL “Trident” badges, one of the highest honors given to Navy SEALs who complete special water training.
“Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” said Mike Berry, General Council for First Liberty Institute.
“Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive,” he added.
Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told military personnel in August that all of them must be vaccinated and comply, or else they would be discharged. Austin himself tested positive for Covid-19 on Jan. 2 despite being vaccinated.
O’Connor’s injunction comes days before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments against Biden’s vaccine mandates for large employers with 100 or more workers and healthcare workers.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Jan. 7.