Pentagon Petition Asks the Supreme Court to Reject an Order Deploying SEALs Who Refused the Covid Vaccine
On Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked the Supreme Court to block part of a lower court ruling that prevents the Navy from restricting the deployment of Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) team members who refuse to receive the Covid vaccine.
The order “usurps the Navy’s authority to decide when servicemembers should be deployed to execute some of the military’s most sensitive and dangerous missions,” Austin said in the emergency court filing.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued the order on Jan. 3 in a lawsuit filed by 35 Navy seals alleging that mandatory vaccinations violate their religious freedom.
In early January, a Texas federal judge ruled that military members of the elite special operations community can opt-out of the vaccine requirement if they have religious objections, NBC news report.
Additionally, their commanders are prohibited from changing their military assignments if they refuse vaccination. Austin requested that the Supreme Court block the second part of the order.
According to Austin, the order directs the Navy “to assign and deploy them without regard to their lack of vaccinations, notwithstanding military leaders’ judgment that doing so poses intolerable risks to safety and mission success.”
A SEAL team member has already been sent on a submarine mission against the wishes of commanders, Austin said. In his words, the lower court order was an “extraordinary and unprecedented intrusion into core military affairs” that has no precedent in American history.
Admiral William K. Lescher, vice chief of naval operations, said that even one SEAL who becomes ill from Covid-19 could compromise the mission.
“The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater,” O’Connor wrote. “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial.”
On Feb. 28, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the government’s appeal of O’Connor’s order, leading to Monday’s appeal.
Lawyers for the SEALs have been given until March 14 to respond to the Supreme Court’s request.