GOP members back Navy SEAL lawsuit challenging vaccine mandate

AP Photo/LM Otero

Just yesterday I was writing about the near impossibility of any of America’s armed service members receiving a religious exemption to the vaccination mandate imposed on the military by Joe Biden. While other types of exemptions have been granted in rare circumstances, there is no known record of a single religious exemption being approved. This has led a group of Navy SEALS to go to court in an effort to get their exemption requests approved. Now their case has drawn the support of nearly fifty Republicans from the House and Senate who have filed a brief with the court endorsing the request. Will that sway the court’s opinion? There’s no way to know, but at the very least, it can’t hurt. (Politico)

A group of 47 Republican lawmakers filed an amicus brief in support of a federal lawsuit brought by more than two-dozen Navy SEALS seeking a religious exemption to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

The suit, which names President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, will be heard in a federal courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 26 Navy SEALs and nine special operations crewmembers.

The group of lawmakers, which includes nine senators and 38 representatives, is led by Sens. Ted Cruz, Jim Inhofe and Roger Marshall, whose amendment preventing the dishonorable discharge of service members refusing the vaccine was included in the National Defense Authorization Act that’s now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The names on the list won’t come as much of a surprise. Cruz, Inhofe, and Marshall all worked together to put a provision in the NDAA that would forbid giving service members dishonorable discharges if they refused the vaccine. The number of members who signed off on the brief is encouraging if nothing else.

Less inspirational is the complete lack of Democratic support for this initiative. Is Congress really so polarized at this point that we couldn’t find a single Democrat to concur and make this a bipartisan effort? Where are the Democrats from the Armed Services committees? It just feels as though every Democrat is so terrified of not looking like they are 100% in Biden’s corner on all of these mandates that they’ve forgotten who they are supposed to be looking out for and taking care of.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m not entirely sure that a religious exemption is the way to go since no major religions are forbidding their congregants from being vaccinated. But it seems like our SEALs should be able to qualify for some sort of exemption, be it administrative or otherwise. The people most likely to survive COVID without experiencing serious medical issues are still the young and athletic with no underlying health issues. That’s pretty much the definition of the SEALs in a nutshell.

This lawsuit alleges that the vaccine mandate violates the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, along with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. That’s cutting a pretty broad swath in terms of legal protections. But I’ll confess to not being very confident in their chances. First of all, the courts may be hesitant to endorse a type of exemption that could then be used by virtually anyone in the country without requiring any sort of provable case to back it up beyond being willing to state that they believe it’s God’s will. Going beyond that, the military relies on the willingness of our service members to follow orders when they receive them. This sort of exemption could seriously undermine discipline in the future.

When talk of immunity passports and vaccine mandates first emerged, I smelled trouble coming on the horizon. But now it’s spreading out in ways that I’d never anticipated. This latest round of debates involving the military is only the latest, and I’m sure there will be more battles to come.