Navy SEALs in a court battle with the Biden administration over its alleged failure to consider their religious exemption requests to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate still suffer religious discrimination, according to a brief filed Friday.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) position is that now the Department of Defense (DOD) has complied with Congress’ order to rescind the mandate and servicemembers no longer face possible discharge for refusing the vaccine, courts should drop the case, Mike Berry, military affairs counsel at First Liberty Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
However, the new policy leaves the door open to continued discrimination and treating unvaccinated members like “second-class citizens,” attorneys for the class action lawsuit that includes 26 Navy SEALs said in the brief.
“It’s important to keep in mind that since the very beginning, our position was never one way in which we challenged the authority to issue the mandate or or the existence of the mandate, or its or even its lawfulness,” Berry told the DCNF. “We only challenged the way that it was being discriminatorily enforced against service members of faith.”
The case centers around 26 Navy SEALs who filed a complaint in November 2021 alleging the Navy did not follow procedures for granting religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, thereby violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, court documents show.