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Federal judge blocks Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Joe Biden. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 21, 2022

A federal judge has temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate requiring federal workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a Friday ruling, Judge Jeffrey Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction blocking Executive Order 14043, Biden’s order requiring all federal employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. With the decision, the federal government cannot implement or enforce the order until a lawsuit seeking to overturn the order is resolved.

Brown granted the preliminary injunction based on his belief that the federal employees now acting as plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their lawsuit. He wrote that the vaccine mandate poses the potential for “irreparable injury” because it requires the federal employees to choose between their “jo(s) or their jab(s).”

Brown said Biden’s federal vaccine order “amounts to a presidential mandate that all federal employees consent to vaccination against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.”

Brown wrote that the federal employees could not wait to see if their lawsuit would ultimately succeed, because they could face termination before the case is ever decided.

“Requiring the plaintiffs to wait to be fired to challenge the mandate would compel them to ‘bet the farm by taking the violative action before testing the validity of the law,'” Brown wrote.

The judge also noted many of the federal employee plaintiffs “already have received letters from their employer agencies suggesting that suspension or termination is imminent, have received letters of reprimand, or have faced other negative consequences.”

Brown’s decision comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Biden’s OSHA-enforced order that private businesses with 100 or more employees either require vaccinations or weekly tests of their employees. Employers who did not comply with the order could have faced $14,000 fines per violation. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court blocked the order, which would have affected an estimated 84 million Americans.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court wrote. “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”

Earlier this month, Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas also granted a preliminary injunction, blocking the U.S. Navy from punishing 35 naval special warfare members who are seeking exemptions to Biden’s military-wide vaccine mandate.

O’Connor wrote, “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial.”

O’Connor said the service members’ opposition to the vaccines is “undisputedly sincere” and it’s not the court’s role to decide their truthfulness. The judge noted that, in many cases, the plaintiffs’ commanding officers recommended their religious accommodation requests be approved, yet none of their requests have been approved and 29 out of 35 have already been rejected.

“Although ‘all requests for accommodation of religious practices are assessed on a case-by-case basis,’ Phase 1 of the Navy guidance document instructs an administrator to update a prepared disapproval template with the requester’s name and rank,” O’Connor wrote. “Based on this boilerplate rejection, Plaintiffs believe that this process is ‘pre-determined’ and sidesteps the individualized review required by law.”