The Naval Academy and Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck are among defendants in a new lawsuit calling for the boards of visitors at the service academies to be restored.
Boards of visitors at the Air Force, Naval and Military academies have been unable to meet since February 2021 when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called for a zero-based review of all advisory boards.
Austin and the Department of Defense are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
The case, filed by academy alumnus Jeffrey McFadden, a Grasonville attorney, is on behalf of Heidi Stirrup, a member of the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, Dr. Mark Green, a representative and member of U.S. Military Academy’s board of visitors, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., two cadets at the Air Force academy, two cadets at West Point and the cadets’ parents. It was filed in the district court for the District of Columbia.
McFadden recently represented Ensign Chase Standage, who sued Buck and the secretary of the Navy to block his expulsion after he faced separation due to tweets considered inappropriate and racist by leadership.
The new lawsuit initially started with Stirrup, who former President Donald Trump appointed to the Air Force Board of Visitors, suing the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Force Academy and its superintendent over the inability of the board to meet.
While the academy, Buck, the Department of the Navy and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro are listed as defendants, none of the plaintiffs have Naval Academy connections.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, chair of the Board of Visitors, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Ruppersberger previously told The Capital that he’s frustrated by the board’s inability to meet. He is actively in touch with the Pentagon and is hopeful the board will be able to by the end of September.
But while the lawsuit is calling for the boards to be reinstated, the main focus is on the inability of board members to inquire into the actions of the service academies. The plaintiffs listed are particularly concerned about the role of critical race theory at the academies, cheating at the academies and COVID-19 protocols.
With the boards suspended, the members have been unable to receive any information in response to their requests, according to the amended complaint in the lawsuit, which added all the service academies.
The boards themselves have little power over the day-to-day functions at the academies, including the curriculum. They are, as the lawsuit describes them, oversight boards. They are required by law to meet a certain number of times per year and make recommendations to the academies, the president and the secretary of the Navy. They can also make recommendations to Congress.
However, these recommendations are just that. The boards cannot mandate change at the academies.
The plaintiffs, in the lawsuit, express concern that critical race theory is being incorporated into the academies’ teachings without any investigation or recommendations from board members.
They also question how academies are treating the COVID-19 vaccine, saying those who do not get it are being ostracized and punished, including by not being able to participate in the summer fleet or losing liberty in order to quarantine.
The lawsuit also cites Dr. Peter McCullough, who is currently being sued by Baylor University Medical Center, because he continues to use his former titles while promoting controversial vaccination opinions. It also cites the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which allows for people to submit their experiences with vaccines.
In the lawsuit, McFadden writes that there have been more than 4,000 deaths associated with the vaccine per VAERS, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which runs the site, says adverse events, including death, “do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”
Members of the military will likely be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as the Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer version.
The lawsuit contains five arguments as to why the boards should be restored, including that the plaintiffs’ First Amendments rights have been violated.
The first argument is that the boards’ suspension violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which determines how agencies can make decisions. The suspension violates the act because it is not in accordance with the law and is contrary to Articles I and II of the U.S. Code, which gives Congress the power to create the academy boards of visitors.
The suspension is also “arbitrary and capricious” as well as “abuses of discretion,” according to the lawsuit.
Another reason is the suspension violates the first and second articles of the U.S. Code because the boards of visitors for service academies fall under the authority of Congress not the secretary of Defense.
Three of the arguments are that the suspension violates the First Amendment because the board members are unable to question or provide their opinions on the critical race theory being taught at the academies. The suspension also prevents the public and the cadets or midshipmen from petitioning the boards to remedy grievances.
The last reason for violation of the First Amendment is that, according to the lawsuit, critical race theory is like a religion and by teaching it and embracing it at the academy, it “constitutes state-sponsored religion,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks that the district court finds the suspensions to be unlawful and prevent the suspensions from happening in the future, as well as award the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs.
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