Tuesday, March 01, 2022

5th Circuit Upholds Injunction Against Vaccine Mandate For Navy Seals With Religious Objections

In U.S. Navy Seals 1-26 v. Biden, (5th Cir., Feb. 28, 2022), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant the Navy a partial stay of an injunction issued by a Texas federal district court protecting 35 special warfare personnel who object on religious grounds to complying with the military's COVID vaccine mandate. The court said in part:

Defendants have not demonstrated “paramount interests” that justify vaccinating these 35 Plaintiffs against COVID-19 in violation of their religious beliefs. They insist that “given the small units and remote locations in which special-operations forces typically operate, military commanders have determined that unvaccinated service members are at significantly higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 and are therefore medically unqualified to deploy.” But “[r]outine [Naval Special Warfare] mission risks include everything from gunshot wounds, blast injuries, parachute accidents, dive injuries, aircraft emergencies, and vehicle rollovers to animal bites, swimming or diving in polluted waters, and breathing toxic chemical fumes.” There is no evidence that the Navy has evacuated anyone from such missions due to COVID-19 since it instituted the vaccine mandate, but Plaintiffs engage in life-threatening actions that may create risks of equal or greater magnitude than the virus.