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Biden admin taking Navy SEAL’s vaccine mandate challenge to Supreme Court

U.S. Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) team members. (U.S. Navy/Released)
March 08, 2022

On Monday, President Joe Biden’s administration called on the Supreme Court to block a lower court order preventing the Navy from limiting the deployment of Navy SEALs who have not taken a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the emergency court filing, solicitor general Elizabeth Prelogar alleged that the lower court’s order “usurps the Navy’s authority to decide which servicemembers should be deployed to execute some of the military’s most sensitive and dangerous missions.”

Earlier this year, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court Texas’ Northern District temporarily blocked the U.S. Navy from kicking out 35 Naval Special Warfare members seeking religious exemptions to the military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate implemented by Biden’s administration.

“The district court granted that extraordinary relief,” Prelogar said. “The court’s preliminary injunction not only prohibits the Navy from applying the COVID-19 vaccination requirement to respondents, but also requires the Navy to assign and deploy them without regard to their lack of vaccinations notwithstanding military leaders’ judgement that doing so poses intolerable risks to safety and mission success.”

“Indeed, the Navy has informed this Office that the injunction has already compelled it to send one respondent to Hawaii for duty on a submarine against its military judgment,” she continued. “Other respondents occupy positions that may require them to be ‘deploy[ed] anywhere in the world in the immediate future.’”

The solicitor general argued that the order amounts to an “extraordinary and unprecedented intrusion into core military affairs.”

In his decision to grant a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor wrote, “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial.”

“The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” O’Connor continued. “The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

While quoting Admiral William K. Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations and the second-highest uniformed officer in the Navy, Prelogar argued that the injunction will negatively impact mission readiness of special-operations forces, as well as “’break[] down good order and discipline’, ‘unnecessarily limit the Navy’s ability to conduct daily operations and operational missions’, and risk ‘mission failure in contingencies and crises that cause harm to national security.’”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit chose not to block O’Connor’s order on Feb. 28. The Supreme Court asked for the SEALs’ lawyers to provide a response to the government’s filing by March 14, NBC News reported.