Dozens of congressional lawmakers have announced their support for a group of Navy SEALs who sued the Biden administration and the Defense Department for refusing to grant religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Just the News reports nine senators and 38 U.S. representatives filed an amicus brief in favor of the SEALs, who argue their applications for religious exemptions from the mandate were unfairly denied.
"No right is more precious than the right to religious liberty," the lawmakers said in the brief addressed to U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor. "That is why the very first clause of the very First Amendment explicitly states that 'Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise' of religion."
"This amendment, case law, and Congress's decision to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ('RFRA') all testify to the fact that, without entrenched, generally applicable, and judicially enforceable protections for religious liberty, lawmakers and government bureaucrats are susceptible to override sincere religious beliefs in favor of what they perceive to be the greater good," the document continued.
"That is what is happening with Defendants' vaccine mandate. Plaintiffs' religious liberty and the government's asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19," the lawmakers explained.
"Defendants refuse to accommodate Plaintiffs' religious objections even as they accommodate those who will not receive the vaccine for non-religious reasons. This violates RFRA by substantially burdening Plaintiffs' religious beliefs without a compelling reason, and violates the First Amendment's guarantee that government not discriminate against religion," the legal document noted.
SEALs Lawsuit Explains Religious Objections
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced in August that all U.S. troops will be required to get the COVID vaccine – a move that is supported by President Biden.
"The fact that the government has not granted a single religious exemption from the vaccine mandate shows that the Biden administration is engaged in an attempted ideological purge," said Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. "Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America's values."
Berry continued, "After all these elite warriors have done to defend our freedoms, the Navy is now threatening their careers, families, and finances. It's appalling and it has to stop before any more harm is done to our national security."
When one SEAL informed his superiors that he planned to seek a religious exemption from the vaccine, his commanding officer told him that he would have to surrender his Special Warfare pin.
Other extreme punishments are being threatened as well. A new directive issued by the Navy states that if a SEAL declines the vaccine, the military could attempt to recover money that the government has spent on his training.
First Liberty points out that SEALs dedicate years of their lives in training to become the most elite fighting force. Yet, the Navy is willing to oust them or force them to repay the cost of their training simply because their beliefs keep them from receiving a COVID vaccine.
The lawsuit outlines that multiple plaintiffs have religious objections to getting immunized against COVID-19 because "the vaccines were developed, tested, or produced using aborted fetal cell lines." Those refusing to receive the vaccine "hold the sincere religious belief that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that abortion is the impermissible taking of an innocent life in the womb."
In addition, many of the SEALs have already contracted and recovered from COVID-19, while some have had antibodies tests showing that they acquired natural immunity.
Air Force Fires 27 Airmen for Refusing COVID Vaccine
It's not just happening in the Navy. As CBN News reported earlier this month, the Air Force discharged 27 service members for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.
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.
"It goes against my bodily sovereignty as a Christian. I mean God makes it very clear. This body that I'm given is my last bastion of freedom," one Army National Guardsman told to CBN News earlier this month. At the request of legal counsel, he asked not to be identified.
He says he received other vaccines from the military without doing much research. But that wasn't the case with the COVID-19 shot.
In his request for a religious exemption, he cited fetal cell lines used in the research and development phase of the mRNA vaccines and in the production of Johnson & Johnson's shot. If his request isn't granted, he says he'll take a discharge rather than violate his beliefs.
In the Military, Religious Exemptions Rare
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CBN News earlier this month that religious exemptions are rare. For example, none has been granted in either the Navy or Marines in almost a decade.
"This is not about liberties it's about a military medical requirement to keep them safe, to keep their families safe, to keep their units safe and the Secretary continues to strongly believe that these vaccines are the best way to do it with respect to COVID," Kirby said
A Navy spokesman told CBN News there is no "blanket policy" about denying religious exemption requests. Each is considered on a case-by-case basis. There are, however, very strict guidelines that must be met, including a history of objecting to vaccinations. Anyone who refuses to get vaccinated, Christian or not, will be given a general discharge.