In the latest battle against the government’s draconian Covid-19 vaccine mandate for the U.S. military, Air Force service members have moved to sue the Department of Defense (DoD) for discriminating against those seeking religious exemptions from the vaccine.
First Liberty Institute, representing the service members, announced the class-action lawsuit through a press release last week.
“At a time of instability and ever-increasing threats around the world, you’d think the Pentagon would want every service member at their post. But instead, military leaders are forcing tens of thousands of our bravest out of the service because they’ve chosen to live according to their faith,” Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute Director Mike Berry said.
“Punishing these servicemembers for seeking religious accommodation is illegal, vindictive, and wrong,” he continued. “Religious liberty is essential to national security, and our servicemembers deserve better.”
The lawsuit, aimed at Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, the Department of Defense, and U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, states that Air Force service members are mandated to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or be “involuntarily separated.”
While the DoD has claimed to offer medical and religious exemptions, “Religious accommodation requests” (“RARs”) are universally denied unless the requester is already imminently leaving the Air Force,” the suit further states.
Beyond having their RARs denied, the nine plaintiffs claimed to have experienced discrimination by the DoD.
“Plaintiffs have lost promotions that had already been announced, received official discipline, been barred from training opportunities, and placed in a no-pay status, to name only a few kinds of the harm they have already endured,” the complaint states.
First Liberty also represents a group of Navy SEALs fighting against the vaccine mandates.
In March, the group scored a victory after a federal appeals court denied an emergency stay of a preliminary injunction, blocking the DoD from punishing service members who have religious objections to the vaccine.
Recently, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and multiple GOP lawmakers introduced legislation protecting Air Force cadets and midshipmen from punishment for opposing vaccine mandates.
The measure comes after the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) announced that unvaccinated seniors would not be commissioned.