The U.S. Department of Defense has officially rescinded mandates for the COVID-19 shot for members of the Armed Forces, National Guard and Ready Reserves.
Thousands of service members were denied religious accommodation requests from the federal mandate. Many service members have been punished, demoted and discharged as a result, the Liberty Counsel said.
The Liberty Counsel is a Christian advocacy group. Their attorneys go to court to protect individual rights, primarily the freedom of religion, but not solely.
In the summer of 2021, after pressure was applied on members of the military to get vaccinated, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made it official, issuing a memorandum on Aug. 24, 2021, directing all service members to get the COVID shot.
State Sen. Tom Brewer of Nebraska, a veteran who served several tours of duty in Afghanistan, said the order was “absolutely despicable, and the most shameful thing I have seen done to American military personnel since the Vietnam war.”
“The covid vaccine does not work,” Brewer said at the time. “It doesn’t prevent infection. It doesn’t prevent someone with covid from infecting others.”
Brewer also noted that some people have bad reactions to the shots, worse than COVID-19.
Brewer spoke out in late summer. Since then, the severity of COVID-19 seems to have lessened, although new strains are more contagious. More people are said to be getting the virus, but with less severe effects.
Multiple courts considered the Department of Defense mandate, and ruled that the military branches violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in denying individual requests for religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate.
The vaccine order was finally rescinded by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act that funds the military. President Joe Biden signed the bill on Dec. 23.
Under the new law, service members who were discharged for refusing the shot will not be reinstated, the Liberty Counsel said. However, discharged veterans can contact their discharge review board to request a correction to their personnel records, “including records regarding the characterization of their discharge.”
Despite the revoked order, the DOD strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccinations for military personnel.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the military “will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all service members,” but those who refused the shot on religious, administrative or medical grounds will no longer face discharge.
Liberty Counsel said they are not confident that this will be the end of retaliation against service members who filed a religious exemption.
Austin’s memo also states that a commander’s responsibility is to maintain unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and the health and safety of the joint force, and thus suggests that getting the COVID-19 shots is a responsibility of the commander, Liberty Counsel pointed out.
The DOD has taken the position in litigation that refusing to take the shots after a religious exemption request is denied undermines good order and discipline.
Liberty Counsel is headed for federal court on Feb. 27, 2023, seeking permanent class action relief from the federal COVID shot mandate on behalf of those who currently serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Merryday has already issued a preliminary injunction.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said his group wants to make sure “this abuse never again happens to our service members.”
The Liberty Counsel has also posted a long index of reports, news articles and research studies about the negative consequences of COVID-19 vaccinations as well as other aspects of the pandemic. You can see it HERE.
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