First Liberty Institute has filed a federal lawsuit that seeks a temporary restraining order on behalf of its nine clients.
The lawsuit, which names the Department of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force, alleges the servicemembers are victims of religious discrimination because they are are seeking a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Except for those who refused and quit, nearly every servicemember in the 1.5-million U.S. armed forces followed orders and rolled up a sleeve for The Jab. The number of holdouts has dwindled to approximately 20,000 in recent months, and those holdouts have faced immense pressure and threats, including financial ruin as punishment, for their refusal.
First Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry tells AFN the nine Air Force personnel have witnessed nearly 100% of the religious accommodations requests in the Air Force get turned down. That is also happening in other branches, the attorney points out, including to the Navy plaintiffs First Liberty is also representing.
But the law firm keeps fighting on behalf of its clients. Berry says the vaccine mandate substantially burdens the servicemembers’ free exercise of religion, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. First Liberty alleges in court the Department of Defense has failed to prove it has a compelling government interest to demand The Jab.
“In addition to our lawsuit,” Berry says, “we've also asked the court to turn this into a class-action [lawsuit] that would cover everybody in the Air Force who has a religious objection to the vaccine."
If a federal judge allows it, that would mean First Liberty would represent all the defiant airmen in the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard, and also the three Air Force Academy cadets who could not graduate with their class because they refused the mandate.
But … Naval officer emerges victorious
Meanwhile, a victory by a Naval officer in his battle to not take the ja, could be an encouraging sign for other military service members who don't want to submit to the vaccine mandate.
In a stunning rebuke of the Biden Pentagon, a Navy administrative separation board voted unanimously to retain an officer who refused to submit to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. According to a statement from his attorney, Navy Lieutenant Billy Moseley risked his retirement in choosing to take his case to the administrative separation board after learning "that the Navy and other services intended to implement a blanket denial policy."
In a news release, Moseley said he "became convinced that as an officer he had an obligation to take a stand against the unlawful order and be a voice for thousands of enlisted Sailors."
Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Naval chaplain, says Moseley knew the law. "Three other Navy officers ruled that he did not violate a lawful order, that it was unlawful, that he had a legal right to refuse experimental vaccines," he explains. "And he will now remain an officer in the Navy."
He predicts this suggests "there are great victories to be had" for other military personnel in the same situation.
First Liberty's Berry agrees – to a point. "I think it's a very good sign that the Navy board decided to retain that particular officer," the attorney tells AFN. "I guess the problem is that it's a case-by-case basis [and maybe] you're one of the lucky ones. But for every one of those, there might be two or five or ten that decide against you."
That's why Berry and his firm are moving forward with lawsuits that will preclude individual service members from fighting against the mandate on their own.
6/2/2022 - Segment on USN Lt. Moseley added.