This week, I had the honor of representing one of our nation’s finest heroes, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jerry Boykin, in a key religious liberty case. Thirty-five Navy SEALs had religious objections to President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate, and I submitted a brief for Gen. Boykin in their defense. Gen. Boykin was a founding member of the Army’s Delta Force and eventually rose to the position of its commander. As a former special-forces commander, he was in a unique position to tell the court that the SEALs could be accommodated without hurting the military. In my opinion, his testimony will help answer the primary concern the court would have about ruling in the SEALs’ favor. Gen. Boykin wrote most of the arguments himself; I only converted them into a legal brief and put some touches on them.
One of Gen. Boykin’s central points was that statistically, young men like the SEALs that are required to be in excellent physical shape are highly unlikely to come down with a severe case of COVID. This is especially true given that the current strain appears to be milder than the original virus or the Delta variant. He also noted that the current vaccines were designed to fight off the original Wuhan strain, which is now extinct, which is why so many vaccinated individuals have breakthrough cases. Dr. Robert Malone shared the same point with 1819 News recently. Gen. Boykin made an excellent case that, given the low risk of COVID to people like the SEALs and the low effectiveness of the current vaccines, it doesn’t make sense to kick the SEALs out of the service over this.
Gen. Boykin’s observations got me thinking about vaccine mandates in the broader context. I think his reasoning applies to more than just vaccine mandates in the military. It goes to show how progressively illogical these mandates are becoming.
Now before going further, I am not necessarily against the vaccines. For me, it all comes down to the evidence. Are they safe, or are they not? Do they work, or do they not? What does the data say? Given that they were produced in such a short amount of time, there was a higher element of risk involved than for vaccines that go through the usual five to 10-year approval process.
Consequently, if an individual desired to take that risk because they believed it was safer than catching COVID, I supported their right to do so. But if a person thought it would be better not to, they should not have been subjected to a largely experimental vaccine, especially if they had religious objections to it. Thus, while I’m not necessarily against vaccines, I’m against mandates.
Fortunately, efforts to fight vaccine mandates are becoming more successful in the courts. In 2020 and even 2021, courts were very hesitant to step in and fight off vaccine mandates. I think that judges were afraid they would kill people if they did not uphold them.
But starting this year, things started to change. The Supreme Court struck down the OSHA vaccine mandate in January on the grounds that OSHA exceeded its legal authority to issue the mandate. That was good, but it did not touch the medical issue of whether mandates were necessary.
But now, those challenges are coming, and they’re succeeding. In the Navy SEAL case, the trial court enjoined the mandate because the need to fight COVID is no longer a “compelling interest” or an interest of the highest importance. In other words, the court realized that while COVID is still real, it is not as dangerous as it was in 2020 or 2021, and therefore vaccine mandates do not justify running over the Free Exercise Clause or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Likewise, our friends at Liberty Counsel recently forced a massive Illinois health care provider to agree to a $10 million settlement when it fired employees who had religious objections to its vaccine mandate. In cases like that, employers typically have a high chance of succeeding if they can show that the vaccines are necessary to prevent COVID. But when you choose to pay $10 million to make the case go away, it means that you see the writing is on the wall.
So for those wondering whether vaccine mandates are a death sentence for individual liberty, take heart. Vaccine mandates are losing in court. Judges are finally starting to take an honest look at the scientific question of whether the shots are the only foolproof way to deal with COVID. It’s becoming progressively harder for the supporters of mandates to make that argument with a straight face.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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