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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the U.S. military’s mandate that all active personnel be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face punishment – up to and including being discharged from the service – nine unvaccinated Air Force members have filed a federal class-action lawsuit and are requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to protect them from punitive measures while their case is heard before the court.
The airmen – represented by the First Liberty Institute in Texas and the Washington law firm Schaerr Jaffe – maintain that their requests for exemptions to the vaccination mandate on religious or medical grounds have been unfairly denied.
The military vaccination mandate was issued in August 2021, and decreed that active duty Air and Space Force members were required to be fully vaccinated as of Nov. 2, 2021.
Court documents filed by the plaintiff’s attorneys also argue that, since the majority of the U.S. civilian population and members of the military have been fully-vaccinated – and vaccination is no guarantee against catching COVID-19 – that it is pointless to enforce for the Pentagon to enforce its mandate.
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The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on May 27, with the defendants named as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who have yet to respond to the suit in court.
The details of the lawsuit – which can be read here – alleges that the nine unvaccinated airmen in question have already received numerous punishments for their refusal to take the jab, including “lost promotions that had already been announced, received official discipline, been barred from training opportunities and placed in a no-pay status.”
In addition, according First Liberty Institute, the military’s vaccination mandate violates their clients’ fundamental right to freely practice their religion, among other transgressions against their personal liberties.
“The Department of Defense is violating the First Amendment to the Constitution, federal law and [DOD] regulations,” they said. “The vaccine mandate substantially burdens the service members’ free exercise of religion, and the Department of Defense has failed to prove it has a compelling government interest, or that there are no less restrictive ways to further its effort to mitigate the COVID-19 virus.”
The plaintiffs run the gamut from fighter pilots, instructors, and trainees, and include Lt. Col. Bryan Spence from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas; Lt. Col. Tyler Stef at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; Lt. Col. Andrew Grieb at Vance AFB, Oklahoma; Maj. Steven Haynes at Vance; Capt. Alan Sosebee at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado; First Lt. Mitchell Pike at Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Maj. Ryan Corcoran at Kelly Field, Texas; Maj. Danielle Runyan at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; and Lt. Col. Christopher Wu at JB Andrews, Maryland.
Currently, only 3 percent – or 15,000 people – of the members of the Air Force and Space Force have sought out exemptions to vaccination, be they medical, religious, or personal reasons.
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