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Judge Orders Air Force Not to Punish Members Seeking Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Air Force officials were ordered on July 27 not to discipline airmen who are seeking religious exemptions to the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

U.S. District Judge Matthew McFarland, a Trump appointee, entered a preliminary injunction against the military branch.

McFarland two weeks earlier issued a temporary restraining order. He asked the military to make its case as to why he shouldn’t enter a preliminary injunction, a longer-lasting measure.

In a 16-page filing, government lawyers said blocking the military from punishing unvaccinated members “would interfere with ongoing legal proceedings and would otherwise be improper, particularly in light of significant new developments.”

Among the developments, they pointed to U.S. drug regulators authorizing a COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax. Unlike the three shots previously available in the United States, the Novavax vaccine doesn’t use fetal cells in its development, manufacturing, or production.

“Those class members whose religious objections were based on mRNA technology or the use of fetal-derived cell lines are no longer substantially burdened by the COVID-19 vaccine requirement because this option is now available,” the lawyers said.

Included in the opposition was a declaration from Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the director of staff for the Air Force’s headquarters. He claimed that unvaccinated members “are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and substantially more likely to develop severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death” and that exempting a large number of airmen “would pose a significant and unprecedented risk to military readiness and our ability to defend the nation.”

Of the 14 members who died with COVID-19 since March 14, according to Schneider, 12 were unvaccinated.

McFarland wasn’t convinced.

“Defendants fail to raise any persuasive arguments,” he said.

Chris West, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, called the ruling “such a big win” on Twitter.

Thousands Affected

The Air Force has approximately 497,000 members. Of those, 97.1 percent have received a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine as of July 11.

About 1,440 exemptions to the mandate have been granted, including 104 religious exemptions. Another 2,847 are pending, and 6,803 have been rejected.

The small number of religious exemptions granted is “farcical,” McFarland said earlier this year. He said that the Air Force “‘has effectively stacked the deck’ against service members seeking religious exemptions.”

Under the new order, the Air Force can’t take disciplinary action against, or attempt to kick out, members who have requested a religious exemption on or after Sept. 1, 2021, and were deemed by a chaplain as having a “sincerely held religious belief.” Most military members who apply do and were either denied or haven’t had action on their request.

57 Comments
  • Phil Barberg says:

    LIES: ” Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the director of staff for the Air Force’s headquarters. He claimed that unvaccinated members “are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and substantially more likely to develop severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death”

    The TRUTH is more vaccinated people are getting the virus than the unvaccinated. The vaccine reduces the bodies immune system as well as causes numerous medical complications. Why is he not disclosing the facts from the Military study of the vaccines? Perhaps he can’t admit they were wrong so he is following the party line!

  • Hunter says:

    “My body, my choice” only applies if you are a democrat nut!

  • mari says:

    A friend and fellow nurse told me that she got the shot, no problems, got the second shot, said she felt pretty bad, but was ok, got the booster and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. What are the odds? Pretty high I think. These shots are killing people, our youngsters and teens. I won’t take the shot and if a company I am working for says I have to I kiss that company good bye. I refuse it totally. Everyone should do what their minds dictate, but don’t do it because someone tells you to. Our Military need to stand strong if they don’t want this poison in their bodies, continue to refuse.

  • Daniel Motes says:

    The so-called COVID Vaccine is a load of crap that gave me COVID.

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