The U.S. Air Force had given its forces until November 2 to get the COVID jab – the earliest deadline among the military branches. Associated Press reports that thousands of Air Force personnel had either refused or sought an exemption – and that on Monday, 27 airmen had been discharged for refusing to submit to the Biden administration's mandate calling for all members of the U.S. military to be inoculated.
According to the AP report, none of those who were discharged had sought a medical, administrative, or religious exemption. In fact, the Pentagon has not granted any requests by servicemembers who are seeking exemption from the shot. Reports filed by the branches thus far reveal that not one of the almost 17,000 requests for religious exemption have been granted – and hundreds have been denied at the first stage.
Recently in response to the lawsuit Navy Seal 1 v. Biden filed by Liberty Counsel, federal Judge Steven Merryday wrote that the military plaintiffs' claims that the accommodation process is a ruse are "quite plausible" under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
AFN spoke with Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, about Merryday's comment.
"I said after the judge's ruling on November 22 that the Department of Defense would either grant religious exemption and avoid an injunction – or they'll dig their heels in and be forced by the federal courts to grant these religious exemptions. It looks like they're choosing the latter," Staver says.
"… I think they're going to ultimately encounter a buzz saw in the federal court because they're doubling down; they're continuing to deny religious exemptions. Now they're denying the appeals and they're even processing some people in preparation for discharge and other penalties."
Staver believes that the court will ultimately require that the DoD and all the military branches comply with the judge's order.
"I think it will be a very difficult time for the Department of Defense to continue to ignore clear federal law and constitutional law and abuse their service members who have been so faithful," the Liberty Counsel founder offers. "… At the end of the day, the Department of Defense will have to relent – and I can tell you that we will get these religious exemptions for these men and women in the service."
According to the latest Air Force data, more than 1,000 airmen have refused the shot and more than 4,700 are seeking a religious exemption. As of last week, a bit more than 97% of the active-duty Air Force had gotten at least one shot.
Members of the Navy and the Marine Corps had until November 28 to get the shots and their Reserve members have until December 28. Army active-duty soldiers have until Wednesday, and members of the Army National Guard and the Reserves have the most time to be inoculated, with a deadline of next June 30.
The Associated Press contributed to this report