Navy rescinds punishments for unvaccinated SEALs seeking religious exemptions

by Samantha Flom

Photo: Alamy

The U.S. Navy has reportedly rescinded an order punishing SEALs who sought exemptions to the Covid-19 vaccine mandate based on personal or religious beliefs, according to Fox News.

Issued on Sept. 24, 2021, “Trident Order #12” disqualified those SEALs from training and traveling for deployment, stating, “Special Operations Designated Personnel (SEAL and SWCC) refusing to receive recommended vaccines based solely on personal or religious beliefs will still be medically disqualified.”

As part of a subsequent lawsuit brought by First Liberty Institute and Hacker Stephens LLP on behalf of a group of 35 Navy SEALs, that order was placed on hold in February via a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

However, while that legal battle – now a class action lawsuit – is still ongoing, per Fox News, recent court documents show that the Navy discreetly rescinded the order on May 22 without notifying the SEALs or their legal team.

The outlet reported that on May 23, a Navy communication order was disseminated, reading, “This order rescinds reference A,” with “reference A” specified as “Trident Order #12 on COVID-19 Vaccinations.”

The order also reportedly stated that Navy commands “will continue to follow guidance, as appropriate, regarding COVID-19 vaccination, accommodation requests, and mitigation measures.”

Though evidently, that guidance did not include communicating the change in policy to those most affected by it, as a recent court filing by the SEALs’ legal team reportedly indicates that they did not become aware of the order’s rescission until Sept. 1.

“To the best of counsel’s knowledge, Trident Order #12 was not replaced,” wrote plaintiff attorney Heather Gebelin Hacker, per Fox News. “As the Court will recall, Trident Order #12 stated that SEALs who are unvaccinated due to religious beliefs are medically disqualified, though SEALs who are unvaccinated due to medical reasons are not automatically disqualified. Trident Order #12 also implemented the COVID-19 vaccine mandate at the command level for Naval Special Warfare forces, setting a deadline of compliance for October 17, 2021.”

Hacker continued: “A copy of the order rescinding Trident Order #12 is attached to this letter. The rescission of Trident Order #12 does not appear to affect the applicability of Navy or DoD-wide vaccine policies to NSW personnel—it just appears to remove the command-level direction.”

First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry told Fox News Digital, “Now that the Navy has rescinded this unlawful order, the only reason it won’t allow our SEALs to get back to doing their jobs is because of their religious beliefs.”

In addition to the Navy SEALs, service members from other military branches have also been fighting back against the vaccine mandates, with members of the Air Force and Marines achieving recent legal wins.

President Donald Trump has been vocal in his opposition to the vaccine mandates, stating in March, “Another top priority when we take back Congress should be, and it will be, to pass a bill terminating every last federal Covid mandate!”

Also sympathizing with the military service members who have lost their jobs over their decision not to get vaccinated, the president continued: “And on day one, we should force the Pentagon to rehire all the great service members Biden forced out of the military with his lawless vaccine mandates with an apology and all backpay.”

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