Sen. Cruz Leads Amicus Brief for Service Members Seeking Religious Exemptions From President Biden’s COVID Vaccine Mandate
‘They ask this Court to protect their religious freedom from encroachment by the very government they have sworn to protect with their lives’
HOUSTON, Texas – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), along with 38 members of the House of Representatives led by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), filed an amicus brief in U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden, in which 26 Navy SEALs and other Navy service members with sincere religious objections to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are challenging the administration’s vaccine mandate for the Navy. The service members argue that both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment require the federal government to allow exemptions for their sincerely held religious beliefs, especially since they are willing to take other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in lieu of vaccination and the Navy is already allowing medical exemptions.
In the brief, the members wrote:
“Plaintiffs’ religious liberty and the government’s asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. They are only in conflict here because Defendants refuse to accommodate Plaintiffs’ religious objections even as they accommodate those who will not receive the vaccine for non-religious reasons. This violates RFRA by substantially burdening Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs without a compelling reason, and violates the First Amendment’s guarantee that government not discriminate against religion.”
“Defendants’ policies mandating that Plaintiffs be vaccinated in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs does not come close to satisfying the strictest scrutiny Congress demands in RFRA. Defendants’ vaccine mandate forces Plaintiffs—individuals who have devoted their lives to the protection of the country—to choose between following their sincerely held religious convictions and effectively being discharged, losing their calling, and destroying their financial well-being.”
“Religious freedom is fundamental to every American’s liberty, but we have seen in recent years increasing hostility among elected and appointed government officials towards those who seek to exercise that freedom. . . . That same hostility to religion is on display with Defendants’ mandate. Defendants could easily accommodate Plaintiffs and similarly situated religious individuals given that Defendants are already accommodating individuals with medical issues or who received placebos in clinical trials. They have simply chosen not to do so.”
“[T]he impact on the military and our national security strongly counsels in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. The mandate is sidelining the deployment of soldiers on whose service our country relies. If this mandate (as currently being applied or threatened) is not enjoined, these Plaintiffs cannot fulfill their pledge to serve and defend our country, even though, based upon their training and experience, these Plaintiffs, as well as others similarly situated, are some of our most qualified, equipped, and fearless soldiers. Our men and women in uniform have fought to protect the freedoms that every American, regardless of belief, enjoys. Now they ask this Court to protect their religious freedom from encroachment by the very government they have sworn to protect with their lives.”
Read the full text of the amicus brief here.