In a stunning rebuke of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 military vaccine mandate, a Navy SEAL commander has recommended the approval of a service member’s request for a religious exemption.
According to a filing in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals obtained by Fox News Digital, the commander of a Naval Special Warfare Group states that denying these requests is having a detrimental effect on military recruiting and retention.
This is the first known recommended approval by a senior military official and directly pits the commander against Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The attorney representing the plaintiffs in the ongoing lawsuit brought by First Liberty Institute and Hacker Stephens LLP on behalf of 35 active-duty SEALs and three reservists seeking a religious exemption to the mandate says that the Chief of Naval Operations will now have to decide whether to reject the vaccine mandate policy being pushed by the Biden administration or the recommendation of the commander.
The commander writes in his recommendation for exemption: “My force, the Naval Special Warfare Reserve Component, is grappling with retention challenges due in part to the manner in which religious accommodation requests like that from [SWCC 3] have thus far been processed and adjudicated by the Navy. For mission-related reasons subsequently discussed, I cannot afford to lose more quality Sailors.”
The filing also mentions a decision in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal last week that upheld an injunction protecting unvaccinated Air Force service members from being punished or involuntarily terminated from the military due to religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
First Liberty’s senior counsel Michael Berry said, “As Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh said, the commanders on the ground know best when it comes to maintaining combat readiness.
In this case, a Navy SEAL commander with decades of experience says kicking out his troops hurts our military worse than COVID ever could. America is now learning that the Pentagon bureaucrats are wildly out of touch with reality.”
The Biden administration’s push for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine for military service members has been met with resistance from religious conservatives, who argue that it violates their religious freedoms.
It remains to be seen whether the Navy will heed the recommendation of the commander and approve the religious exemption request.