In Georgia, a federal court has issued the first order urging the Air Force from enforcing Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate against military personnel. Judge Tilman E. Self, III of the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ordered a temporary injunction on Tuesday that orders the Air Force and the Department of Defense may not enforce the mandate against a service member who has religious objections to the vaccine. Judge Self was appointed to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2017.
The judge wrote in his ruling that constitutional protections “remain commandments, not suggestions,” and those protections even apply to the military. The ruling stated that the mandate places an unfair burden on sincerely held religious beliefs and said the government’s claimed process to review requests for religious accommodations to be “both illusory and insincere.” The court found that the Air Force had “rubber-stamped” the denial of over 99 percent of requests for religious accommodation.
Lawyers from the Thomas More Society are representing the Air Force officer. Special Counsel Adam Hochschild said the plaintiff is pleased with the ruling, hoping it marks the “beginning of the end” of the Air Force mandate.
The plaintiff officer objected to the vaccine because of its connection to abortion and the abortion industry. She also has natural immunity to COVID-19 through prior infection twice previously.
Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton said the ruling is a great victory for religious freedom. When the suit was filed, he said that the Air Force had not granted a single request for a religious exemption. A handful was granted after the case was filed.
Some religious leaders find no moral violation in receiving the COVID vaccine. There is no scientific dispute that embryonic cell strains harvested from aborted humans were used to develop, test, and produce all of the now-approved vaccines.
The plaintiff officer’s lawsuit challenges both the military and federal employee mandates that could apply to her under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.
It is unknown if the government will appeal the ruling, and the final trial in the case has not been scheduled.