By Bethany Blankley (The Center Square)
Liberty Counsel is continuing its lawsuits in federal court over the Defense Department’s COVID-19 vaccine order, even after the order was revoked this week.
Liberty Counsel founder and president Matt Staver told Center Square that he is concerned that the DOD will not continue to retaliate against service members who have submitted religious accommodation requests (RARs) and that all military branches have failed to comply. Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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The Orlando-based Religious Freedom Law Foundation is scheduled to go to trial in one of its cases next month in federal court before Judge Steven Merriday. It is asking the court to grant permanent class action relief to everyone serving in the US Marine Corps from the order. Last August, Merriday granted a classwide preliminary injunction.
In a separate case, Liberty Counsel presented oral arguments last month before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a US Marine lieutenant colonel and a Navy commander of a warship.
“These military heroes sacrificed everything to protect America,” Staver said. “Liberty Counsel has pursued a permanent injunction against the Department of Defense so that this abuse never happens again to our service members.”
On Jan. 10, DOD officially announced its Aug. 24, 2021 and withdrawn on November 30, 2021, a memorandum mandating that all members of the US military, including the National Guard and Ready Reserves, receive emergency use authorization COVID-19 shots. or face discharge and other disciplinary action. Congress required the mandate to be repealed when it passed the National Defense Authorization Act. Despite opposition to ending the order, the president signed the NDAA and after thousands of service members were denied RARs, punished, demoted and discharged.
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The DOD said it follows the law and will “continue to encourage and promote COVID-19 vaccination for all service members.” According to the DOD memo, those who do not receive shots for religious, administrative or medical reasons do not face discharge. And service members’ records are updated to remove any adverse actions related to denials of their exemption requests, including letters of reprimand.
The new policy does not allow reinstatement for those discharged for refusing to comply. However, dischargeees may contact their discharge review board to request an amendment to their personnel records, “including records relating to the nature of their discharge,” Liberty Counsel notes.
For those still in the military, each branch is directed to “cease any ongoing reviews of current service members’ religious administrative or medical accommodation requests for exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine or appeals of denials of such requests.”
Liberty Council says the DOD will not end all retaliation against service members who filed RARs in light of the actions taken against service members, which it described as “cruel and unusual punishment,” with some committing suicide.
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This raises concerns about the directive in the guidance, which states, “All commanders have the responsibility and authority to maintain the department’s strong interest in mission accomplishment. This responsibility and authority includes the ability to maintain military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and the health and safety of resilient joint forces.
It’s “the commander’s responsibility to get the COVID-19 shots,” Staver said.
“The DOD has taken a position on the claim that refusing to take shots after refusing the RAR undermines good order and discipline,” he said. “In other words, a commander who swears to defend the Constitution and the laws of the land is considered subservient to requesting that the laws of the land be enforced. This is ironically sad.”
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.