On 27 July, US District Judge Matthew McFarland entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and punishments for failing to take COVID-19 vaccinations by members of the Air Force who requested religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
A couple weeks ago he issued a temporary restraining order and directed both sides in the case to submit their arguments for or against a longer-lasting preliminary injunction. Both sides complied. The judge was not swayed by the filing submitted by Biden Administration lawyers.
Under the new order, the Air Force, Space Force and Air National Guard cannot take disciplinary action or attempt to separate members who have requested a religious exemption on or after Sept. 1, 2021, and who were found by a chaplain to have a “sincerely held religious belief.”
The Air Force is the second service to receive such an injunction; the Navy’s was issued in the spring. The injunctions are valid until the cases are fully resolved in the courts. Army and Coast Guard members are still at risk.
A federal judge in Cincinnati on Wednesday blocked the Biden administration for the foreseeable future from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate globally on any servicemembers in the Air Force, Space Force and Air National Guard who requested religious exemptions.
U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland’s preliminary injunction stops the military from discharging or disciplining servicemembers in this local lawsuit that now has an international impact on the military and class-action status as it heads toward trial.
Judge McFarland has criticized the Air Force, writing that they sweepingly rejected each exemption request and failed to carefully consider the merits of each.
“Members face the same injury: violation of their constitutional freedom by defendants’ clear policy of discrimination religious accommodation requests,” he wrote two weeks ago when he issued the temporary injunction.
Doster v. Kendall comes down to this: Do the rights of those defending our country to exercise their religious freedom and eschew the vaccine supersede the Air Force’s insistence that allowing them to do so will irreparably harm the military’s ability to do its job?
So far, the judge has sided all the way with the servicemembers and now he has included the Air National Guard in the litigation.
The government is expected to swiftly appeal this decision, as they have previous ones in this case.
FOX19 NOW has a request for comment from a spokeswoman for the Air Force. We will update this story once we hear back.
The judge’s decision impacts 200 to 300 servicemembers stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, who filed the lawsuit against top military leaders back in February.
It also affects 7,000 to 9,000 service members nationally, according to the attorney for the local plaintiffs, Chris Wiest of northern Kentucky.
The lead plaintiff in the case, 2nd Lt. Hunter Doster, and more than a dozen others argue the Air Force is forcing them to lose their livelihoods or violate their religious beliefs by receiving vaccines they say have ties to abortion.
“Obviously, we are thrilled for our clients who we were facing career-ending consequences for the exercise of their sincerely held beliefs,” Wiest said Wednesday night. “This case will now proceed into the discovery phase in which we look forward to placing government decision-makers under oath and questioning them about their discriminatory decision-making.” . . . . (read the rest and see the court documents)
Judge halts Air Force from punishing members over religious exemptions (Metro Voice, 28 July 2022)