Court allows Defense Department to reassign unvaccinated SEALs

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On Friday, the Supreme Court allowed the Pentagon to consider whether certain members of the elite Navy SEALs were vaccinated against COVID-19 when making operational decisions.Three judges note dissent, court Temporarily blocked an order Deputy U.S. Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar said the federal trial court would requisition “the Navy’s power to decide which members to deploy to perform some of the military’s most sensitive and dangerous missions.” The ruling came after a group of SEALs opposed the Navy’s vaccination policy on religious grounds. The SEALs had argued that what the Navy really wanted was “allowance to engage in hostile tactics designed to coerce” the SEALs into “disregarding their religious beliefs.”

In August 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that all active duty military members must be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, Friday’s Supreme Court ruling only affects the Navy’s ability to consider whether SEALs and other members of Naval Special Operations Command are vaccinated when making personnel decisions — for example, about who and where to deploy. The administration did not ask judges to allow it to enforce other aspects of the vaccine policy that the SEALs challenged, and a Texas trial court blocked it, such as allowing it to discipline or fire unvaccinated service members.

The Biden administration came to the Supreme Court on March 7, asking the judge to allow it to consider vaccination status as the lawsuit continues. The administration described the trial court’s ruling as an “extraordinary and unprecedented intrusion into core military matters” and stressed that due to the stressful and high-stakes nature of SEALs’ work, the administration “is doing everything possible to ensure that service members conducting these missions do what they can. good physical and medical preparation”, including being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Seeing the administration’s concerns as a “fig leaf,” the SEALs urged the judge to uphold the trial court’s order. Not only is the COVID-19 pandemic “waning,” they wrote, but the lower court’s order simply maintains the status quo — a personnel decision the Navy has already made on how to allocate SEALs. The SEALs argue that the real problem is that the Navy “has not approved any request for religious accommodation for service members, even though it has granted hundreds of non-religious exemptions.” The SEALs acknowledged that “judges should not be presumed to run the military,” but they stressed that the court Nor should they “turn a blind eye to violations of the Constitution or the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act.” They added that the Navy cannot hide its desire to punish the SEALs “for their alleged ‘actions’ without judicial review.” Religious accommodation is required in demand”.

On Friday, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s request in a one-paragraph order to suspend parts of the trial court’s order while it appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and appeals to the Supreme Court if necessary.Justice Clarence Thomas, who spent the past week in hospital Discharged Friday morningsaid he would reject the government’s request.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who worked in the White House under President George W. Bush, wrote a brief concurring opinion explaining why he agreed to set aside part of the trial court’s decision. Kavanaugh sees the question as a “simple” one: “Under Article II of the Constitution, the President of the United States, not any federal judge, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.” Kavanaugh suggested that although the trial court in this case may be “In good faith,” but even federal laws protecting religious liberty still “do not justify judicial involvement in military affairs in this case” because “the Navy’s commitment to maintaining strategic and operational control over the assignment and deployment of all special operators— —Including control over military readiness decisions.” “I see,” Kavanaugh concluded, “there is no basis for using judicial power in a way that military commanders believe would undermine the defense of the American people by the U.S. military under the circumstances. “

Justice Samuel Alito dissented in a 10-page opinion, which was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Alito complained that the challenger in the case “appears to be treated sloppily by the Navy” and describes a lengthy and complicated immunity process that has yet to yield any religious immunity. Alito objected to what he said was the broad language of the Supreme Court order, arguing that it would effectively give the Navy”flame Store “challengers until lawsuits are resolved,” which will take years. At the same time, Alito admitted that he was “cautious” about “judicial intervention-sensitive military decisions.” As such, Alito explained that he would issue a narrow order that would only prevent a Biden administration from providing support for the SEALs and Other members of Special Operations Command make personnel decisions, “They are assigned to missions with special needs to minimize the risk of members becoming ill from COVID-19 that could jeopardize the success of the mission or the safety of team members. “

this article is Originally Posted on Howe on the Court.

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