Denver Newsroom, Mar 1, 2022 / 14:48 pm
A federal appeals court on Monday ruled to keep a lower court order in place, temporarily preventing the Navy and the Department of Defense from taking adverse action against a group of three dozen service members who object to the COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds.
In the Feb. 28 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in January, which prevents the Department of Defense from taking “any adverse action” against the plaintiffs in the case because of requests for religious accommodation.
In August 2021, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and over 99% now are. The Department of Defence had maintained that “[f]orcing the Navy to deploy plaintiffs while they are unvaccinated threatens the success of critical missions and needlessly endangers the health and safety of other service members.”
The 3-judge appeals court wrote, however, that the Navy has “not demonstrated ‘paramount interests’ that justify vaccinating these 35 Plaintiffs against COVID-19 in violation of their religious beliefs,” noting that the Navy has granted temporary medical exemptions to “hundreds” of service members.