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By Brandon Moseley
Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Al05) was one of 47 GOP Congressmen and Senators who joined an amicus brief supporting Navy SEALS and sailors suing to have their religious requests for accommodations from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate accepted by the military.
Members of the military who have a deeply held religious belief against the vaccination are allowed by law to opt out, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s Department of Defense has been routinely denying the religious exemptions. The SEALS and sailors have filed a federal lawsuit since the military is denying those requests for religious accommodations.
“I joined my colleagues in signing an amicus brief in support of members of the Naval Special Operations community seeking religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine,” Brooks said. “These highly trained professionals are among America’s finest warriors and forcing them out of the military like this is absurd and hurts our national security.”
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), and Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), along with 38 members of the House of Representatives led by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), filed an amicus brief in U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden, in which 26 Navy SEALs and other Navy service members claim sincere religious objections to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and are challenging the administration’s vaccine mandate for the Navy. The service members argue that both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment require the federal government to allow exemptions for their religious beliefs, especially since they are willing to take other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in lieu of vaccination and the Navy is already allowing medical exemptions.
In the brief, Brooks and the other Republicans wrote: “Plaintiffs’ religious liberty and the government’s asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. They are only in conflict here because Defendants refuse to accommodate Plaintiffs’ religious objections even as they accommodate those who will not receive the vaccine for non-religious reasons. This violates RFRA by substantially burdening Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs without a compelling reason, and violates the First Amendment’s guarantee that government not discriminate against religion.”
To read the full brief: https://www.cruz.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/final_brief.pdf
The Navy, on Wednesday, reported that 2,844 active-duty servicemen and women had requested religious accommodation for the vaccine mandate. None of those requests have been approved.
The U.S. Air Force has reportedly denied 2,130 requests for religious accommodations to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As of Tuesday, the Air Force has not approved any requests. Air Force and Space Force commands have received more than 10,000 requests from Airmen and Guardians seeking to receive an accommodation for their religious beliefs. More than 8,630 are still awaiting the Air Force and Space Force to make a decision.
The requests are being “individually reviewed by Religious Resolution Teams at the wing, garrison, major command and field command levels,” the Air Force said in a statement on Tuesday.
The teams reviewing the requests for accommodation are made up of chaplains, medical providers, judge advocates and other subject matter experts.
Thousands of religious accommodation requests have been denied across the military services since Sec. Austin’s order in August.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Marine Corps and Army have received some 3,100 and 1,700 requests for accommodations, respectively.
When a request for accommodation is denied, the member of the armed forces can either get the vaccination, file an appeal, or make a request for separation from the service or retire.
Brooks is in his sixth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. He is a 2022 candidate for U.S. Senate.
(Original reporting by The Hill and Associated Press contributed to this report.)
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.