The Biden administration and the Department of Defense must be stopped from causing irreparable harm to the military, federal employees and civilian contractors by denying them religious exemptions and accommodations from the COVID shots
TAMPA, FL — Liberty Counsel filed a renewed motion for a preliminary injunction asking Judge Steven Merryday to block the mandates for plaintiffs from all five branches of the military, federal employees, and federal civilian contractors who have been unlawfully mandated to get the COVID shots or face dishonorable discharge from the military or termination from employment.
Yesterday, Liberty Counsel filed an Amended Complaint adding (1) additional military and federal employee plaintiffs, (2) expanded legal arguments against the mandate for federal civilian contractors, (3) expanded legal arguments against the mandate for federal employees, and (4) the new data submitted by the military branches on January 7, 2022, which substantiates the argument that the military under the Department of Defense (DOD) is not giving any religious exemptions.
Currently, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have granted no religious exemptions
On October 15, 2021, Liberty Counsel sued Joseph R. Biden, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on behalf of members from five branches of the military, federal employees and civilian contractors who have been unlawfully discriminated against regarding religious exemptions and accommodations from the COVID shot mandate. The plaintiffs’ religious exemptions have been denied, and they face dishonorable discharge, court martial, or termination.
After the November 15 hearing, federal Judge Steven Merryday ordered each branch of the military to file a detailed report every 14 days beginning January 7, 2022, regarding the total number of religious exemption requests; the aggregate number of denials, denials where belief found sincere, appeals pending, denials where appeal time has passed and number of successful appeals; the total number of medical exemptions; other exemptions granted and the number of disciplinary proceedings and actions taken after denial in an appeal. The order also stated that the federal executive orders regarding federal employees and civilian contractors expressly require religious exemption.
Judge Merryday wrote that the military plaintiffs’ claim that the accommodation process is a ruse are “quite plausible” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because the reports filed by the military branches revealed at that time not one of the 16,643 requests for religious accommodation have been granted. Since then, many more have been denied at the first stage and at the appeal stage.
Currently, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have granted no religious exemptions. The Marine Corps has purportedly – but not clearly – granted two religious exemptions out of a total of 3,192 requests. However, the two religious exemptions given to Marines who were apparently already slated for separation.
The mental health counselor told him that the highly decorated fallen Marine “was being Administratively Separated for refusing the COVID vaccine”
There is no comparison between the irreparable injury suffered by these plaintiffs and the non-existent interest defendants have in enforcing unconstitutional mandates and depriving them of federally required protection of the exercise of their sincerely held religious beliefs.
For example, on December 21, 2021, one of Liberty Counsel’s Marine plaintiffs received a call from his unit’s mental health services division. This Marine learned that one of his fellow platoon members had committed suicide. The mental health counselor told him that the highly decorated fallen Marine “was being Administratively Separated for refusing the COVID vaccine” because he had a religious objection to the shot. But threatened with the loss of his beloved career and benefits and facing the lifelong disgrace of an undeserved dishonorable discharge, Liberty Counsel’s plaintiff’s friend ended his life.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Biden administration and the Department of Defense must be stopped from causing irreparable harm to the military, federal employees and civilian contractors by denying them religious exemptions and accommodations from the COVID shots. These mandates are abusive.”
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.
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