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A federal judge granted a temporary injunction Monday against a federal vaccine mandate for Navy SEALs, who sued President Biden because they were seeking a religious exemption.
Judge Reed O’Connor, the U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Texas, issued the stay in response to a lawsuit filed by First Liberty Institute in November on behalf of 35 active-duty SEALs and three reservists seeking a religious exemption, as first reported by Fox News Digital.
“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment,” O’Connor wrote in his ruling. “There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
The SEALs represented in the lawsuit were all members of various Christian denominations and objected to the vaccine mandate based on “their sincerely held religious beliefs,” claiming the military was violating their constitutional rights.
In December, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and several of his fellow Republicans in Congress signed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asks a question during an oversight hearing held by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to examine the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (Jonathan Newton/Pool via REUTERS)
“Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” said Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Punishing SEALs for simply asking for a religious accommodation is purely vindictive and punitive. We’re pleased that the court has acted to protect our brave warriors before more damage is done to our national security.”
O’Connor’s ruling comes as potentially thousands of U.S Marines face potential discharge for refusing the vaccine after the Department of Defense’s mandate on all active-duty service members went into effect for the Marine Corps on Nov. 28.
In this Dec. 15, 2016, photo, provided by the U.S. Navy, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) departs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for sea trials following a maintenance availability. (Thiep Van Nguyen II/U.S. Navy via AP)
A major who spoke to Fox News Digital on condition of anonymity described the military’s vaccine mandate as “an unconstitutional edict that I think is very targeted as a political purge, taking out some of the best and brightest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians from the Space Force.”
Fox News’ Kelly Laco, Houston Keene and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.