A federal judge in Georgia granted an order to temporarily block the U.S. Air Force from enforcing the COVID-19 jab mandate on an officer who objected to receiving the experimental injection for religious reasons.
The officer’s religious exemption was denied, and the judge commented that the Air Force had an “abysmal record” for not granting any religious exemptions to anyone.
U.S. District Court Judge Tillman E. Self III issued a preliminary injunction for the unnamed Air Force Reserve officer, saying “Although the Air Force claims to provide a religious accommodation process, it proved to be nothing more than a quixotic quest for Plaintiff because it was by all accounts theater.” He then noted, “But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”
Judge issues preliminary injunction for Air Force Reserve officer who was denied a religious exemption from the military’s COVID vaccine mandate, calling the military’s process for granting religious exemption “illusory and insincere.”https://t.co/0SgPVGf59Y
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) February 17, 2022
Three different federal courts now have issued injunctions against Biden's vaccine mandate on the military. https://t.co/y0F5lDm8m1
— Robert Barnes (@barnes_law) February 16, 2022
Win for Religious Freedom! U.S. District Court for the Middle District of GA issues a prelim. injunction blocking the military from kicking out a service member who objected to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons #FirstAmendmenthttps://t.co/WYHcvqoKQX
— Liberty Justice Center (@LJCenter) February 16, 2022
The Defender explains:
The judge ordered the Air Force to refrain from taking “any adverse action” against the officer on the basis of “this lawsuit or her request for religious accommodation, specifically including forcing her to retire.”
“Given ‘the Nation’s essential commitment to religious freedom[,]’ Plaintiff’s harm — a constitutional injury involving her right to freely exercise her religion — is not a mere trivial grievance,” Self wrote in his ruling.
The judge said the Air Force likely violated the officer’s First Amendment rights when it denied her request for a religious exemption and the subsequent appeal she filed in December.
The Judge wrote:
“All Americans, especially the Court, want our country to maintain a military force that is powerful enough to thoroughly destroy any enemy who dares to challenge it. However, we also want a military force strong enough to respect and protect its service members’ constitutional and statutory religious rights. This ruling ensures our armed services continue to accomplish both.”
As of Feb. 8, the Air Force had approved vaccine exemptions for 3,313 airmen, but they were granted for medical or nonreligious administrative reasons.
When the unnamed officer, stationed at Robins Air Force Base, filed her lawsuit on Jan. 6, the Air Force had not granted any religious accommodations.
Bloomberg Law added:
RFRA provides that the government may not substantially burden a person’s religious exercise through a neutral law of general applicability unless the burden furthers a compelling government interest and the law is the least restrictive means of serving that interest.
The officer stated a “classic case” of substantial pressure, as she was forced to choose between violating her religious beliefs and losing her job, the court said.
There is no doubt the government has a compelling interest in stopping the spread of Covid-19, the court said. But the military leaders didn’t show how requiring this officer to be vaccinated would serve that interest when the Air Force has granted over 3,000 secular exemptions to other members, it said.