Of all the people, you would think the military MIGHT give some bodily autonomy to, the Navy SEALs have been catching a lot of flack for the number of people requesting a religious exemption for the COVID vaccine. With the first groups of servicemembers being chaptered out, this group of SEALs found the right judge in Texas to take their appeal to.
Mike Berry is representing a group of 35 SEALs on behalf of First Liberty Institute and spoke with Daily Caller about the ruling and its win for religious freedom. “We are very grateful for this ruling in favor of our clients. No longer can the Navy force service members to choose between their faith and serving their country…If religious freedom means anything, it must mean that those who are sworn to protect our freedoms should not be forced to lose those very same freedoms.”
Berry is 100% correct here. Religious freedoms should not be something you are asked to give up as a consequence of your choice to serve. The men who make up these teams (no woman has been assigned to their ranks as of this time) make immeasurable sacrifices of themselves, their families, their personal freedoms, and their bodies to do some really ugly things to ensure the American people can continue living the American dream. These things rarely if ever make print, and what does make print is often downplayed simply to keep those who wish us harm from knowing their true capabilities and tactics.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas granted this preliminary injunction while calling the six-phase 50-step religious accommodation process ‘theater.’ As of December 29th, the Navy has granted no religious accommodations, and according to records, it has granted zero exemptions of any kind within the last seven years. Judge O’Connor said “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory, it merely rubber stamps each denial… The Navy uses a fifty-step process to adjudicate religious accommodation requests. Under the standard operating procedures for the process, the first fifteen steps require an administrator to update a prepared disapproval template with the requester’s name and rank. In essence, the Plaintiffs’ requests are denied the moment they begin.”
This was not a judgment made lightly. Judge O’Connor heard the stories of the plaintiffs, and they were nothing less than troublesome. One described how he was told his SEAL trident would be stripped of him for not complying. Another was forbidden to travel to obtain treatment for his traumatic brain injury, an injury suffered while deployed to a forward area. With the current policy to disqualify those with religious exemptions, they are already risking a career-ending decision as this makes them nondeployable, aka just a warm body taking up a slot that can’t fully function as a member of a SEAL team.
The Navy (as well as the rest of the services) need an overhaul on their medical care as it is. Those currently serving are lucky to receive adequate (much less good) medical care, especially around mental health. As this trend starts to change, the vaccine policies need to be reexamined and adjusted for the current conditions across the globe. Those getting out are also in danger of receiving substandard care as many Department of Veterans Affairs locations are critically understaffed and often have slots filled by people who could care less about the veteran or their issues. They just want the government paycheck and to be a part of a system that makes it near impossible to fire them once they are fully vested.
As things are now, people in the U.S. need to be contacting their senators and congressmen. Let them know that these brave men and women deserve our support. They deserve to have bodily autonomy, and they should have a stronger voice in deciding what is best for their bodies.