Despite federal Judge Steven Merryday ordering each branch of the military to file a detailed report every 14 days beginning on January 7, since religious accommodations have not been granted from the COVID-19 shot, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin continues to threaten to withhold funding for payment of duties.
The deadline to be vaccinated for Air Force Reserve was December 2 and Air National Guard is December 31. However, individual commanders are imposing their own “earlier” deadlines.
Austin sent a memorandum on November 30 directed at members of the National Guard and the Ready Reserve that stated: “No Department of Defense funding may be allocated for payment of duties performed under title 32 for members of the National Guard who do not comply with Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccination requirements…No credit or excused absence shall be afforded to members who do not participate in drills, training, or other duty due to failure to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
On December 1, a Florida Army National Guard Sergeant and fellow service members were called into a briefing and informed that soldiers who were not “fully vaccinated by December 15 would be terminated as of December 16.” Two days later, the Florida Army National Guard Sergeant was ordered to attend a battalion meeting where attendees were informed that more than 75 percent of the battalion were unvaccinated. This National Guard Sergeant was immediately sent to “counseling,” where the chain of command attempted to influence her to abandon her religious beliefs concerning not receiving the COVID shot. The commander told her that any attempt at a religious exemption was “futile” because without the shot, she would lose her job and all of her benefits, including VA loans and G.I. Bill benefits.
As a result of Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit, Navy Seal 1 v. Biden, Judge Merryday wrote that the military plaintiffs’ claim that the accommodation process is a ruse are “quite plausible” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because the reports filed by the military branches thus far revealed not one of the 16,643 requests for religious accommodation have been granted and hundreds have been denied at the first stage, including one denied at the appeal stage as of November 15. Numerous others have since been denied.
Judge Merryday has ordered the Department of Justice to file every four weeks, beginning January 7, 2022, a notice providing separately for each branch of the military: (1) total number of religious exemption requests, the aggregate number of denials, holl appeals pending, denials where appeal time has passed and number of successful appeals; (2) total number of medical exemptions, (3) other exemptions granted and (4) number of disciplinary proceedings and actions taken after denial in an appeal.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said: “Biden’s Department of Defense continues to ignore the law by denying every religious exemption request. The Department of Defense and the various military branches are digging in their heels. This will not bode well when they report back to the court. Our military heroes are continually threatened discharge, loss of pay and benefits, and repayment of educational and training costs. The Department of Defense is not above the law.”