A federal judge in Georgia granted an order to temporarily block the vaccine mandate on February 15th in support of an Air Force officer whose request for a religious exemption to vaccination was denied. In fact, the judge noted, calling it an “abysmal record,” that the Air Force had not granted ANY religious exemptions to anyone.
U.S. District Court Judge Tilman Self III said in the order, “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.”
The judge concluded the order saying he was “unquestionably confident that the Air Force will remain healthy enough to carry out its critical national defense mission even if Plaintiff remains unvaccinated and is not forced to retire.”
The judge has then granted the complainant’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
“The Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Defendants are enjoined from enforcing the Department of Defense Military Mandate, the Air Force Military Mandate, and the Air Force Military Order against Plaintiff. Defendants are also enjoined from taking any adverse action against Plaintiff on the basis of this lawsuit or her request for religious accommodation, specifically including forcing her to retire. Finally, Plaintiff is relieved from posting any bond.”
More from Air Force Magazine:
U.S. District Court Judge Tilman Self III issued the ruling after the anonymous female officer, described in court documents as having more than 25 years of service and currently “in Reserve status, serving in an administrative role that doesn’t require deployment or engagement in physical military operations,” sued Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Robert I. Miller, claiming that the department’s mandate was forcing her to choose between her career and her religious beliefs, in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“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,” Self wrote in his order granting the temporary injunction. “However, we also want a military force strong enough to respect and protect its service members’ Constitutional and statutory religious rights.”
“This is a great victory for religious freedom,” Stephen Crampton, senior counsel with the Thomas More Society, said in a statement. “… It is disgraceful how the military in general has disrespected fundamental First Amendment rights. We are grateful that the court has restored the Free Exercise rights of this courageous officer and are hopeful that her victory will help to protect the rights of conscientious objectors everywhere.”
In arguing their case, the officer and her lawyers asked Self, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, to grant a nationwide preliminary injunction stopping the vaccine mandate from being enforced across the entire DOD.
Instead, Self wrote that his ruling “will be narrowly tailored and will only apply to [the] Plaintiff.”
TGP previously reported that members of the Tennessee National Guard who have submitted requests for religious exemptions from the experimental COVID vaccinations received notification this week of a new requirement forcing them to acknowledge that the Army can bypass any requirement for consent, and involuntarily vaccinate them.
The memorandum is supposed to be the Soldier’s own words describing why receiving the vaccine conflicts with his sincerely held religious beliefs. However, per the newly released guidance, the following verbiage must now be added to the request memo:
I understand immunizations required by AR 40-562 or other legal directives may be given involuntarily (except with an approved religious accommodation for an exemption). I also understand that when the Adjutant General or a delegated representative determines that conditions of imminent threat exist; I may be involuntarily immunized per AR 600-20, paragraph 5-4.
An active military officer also reached out to TGP stating that the Pentagon’s RA provision regarding this shot is proving to be somewhat of a circus and is receiving close attention thanks to multiple ongoing legal challenges. Due to the extreme political impetus behind the Covid vaccine push, he believed the DOD had no intent to approve any of the RA requests.