Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin rejected Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s request that the Oklahoma National Guard be exempted from the military vaccine mandate.
"The response from SecDef Lloyd Austin to OK Gov. Kevin Stitt, following Stitt's request for an exemption to the vaccine mandate for OK National Guard.
"The concerns raised in your letter do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement." https://t.co/InCLMen1x2
— John C. Bailey (@john_c_bailey) November 30, 2021
Okla. Gov. Stitt is still not backing down, and has threatened not to comply, as my colleague streiff covered here. But Oklahoma is not the only one openly challenging SecDef Austin’s military vaccine mandate. Liberty Counsel mounted a lawsuit in October against President Joe Biden and the Department of Defense on behalf of military service members, federal employees, and federal civilian contractors.
First Liberty Institute has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Navy SEALs.
As Fox News reported:
A federal lawsuit is being filed on behalf of dozens of U.S. Navy SEALs seeking religious exemptions from the Defense Department’s (DOD) vaccination mandate, claiming the military is infringing upon service members’ First Amendment freedoms and intimidating them into getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
First Liberty Institute is filing a lawsuit Tuesday representing approximately 35 active-duty SEALs and three reservists, claiming the military is violating their constitutional rights. According to the filing, exclusively obtained by Fox News, the SEALs represented are all members of various denominations within the Christian faith and are objecting to the vaccine mandate based on “their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
A large group of faith leaders are also advocating for the religious liberty of our fighting men. Through The National Faith Advisory Board (NFAB) organization, pastors and religious leaders such as Pastor Paula White-Cain, Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, Lance Warnau of Lance Learning, Rabbi Sholom Mimran of Congregation Dor Tikvah, Evangelist Alveda King of Speak for Life and thousands more joined forces to urge SecDef Austin to grant religious exemptions to our military personnel. These faith leaders represent the spectrum of faith life in America, and varied ethnic backgrounds from across the country.
The rallying call to faith leaders came during a recent Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight segment with the General Counsel for First Liberty Mike Berry. Berry raised the serious possibility that Navy SEALs could be denied religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate. Carlson asked,
“Where are the faith leaders to help in this issue?”
The NFAB not only heard this call but went into action. The organization raised the issue on a conference call with thousands of faith leaders from across the country. The call included guest speakers such as Secretary Mike Pompeo and First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford. On the call, Shackelford confirmed what has been reported by Fox News and other outlets that the SEALs are being subjected to intimidation and harassment.
“[F]or (the Navy SEALs) requesting their legal right, they’re being attacked, their families are being attacked…they’re being told they could be court marshalled, that they could be dishonorably discharged…”
However, it’s not only the SEALs who are being subjected to this:
“It’s not just happening to the SEALs — it’s happening to people throughout the military. The DoD has stated publicly that they have granted zero religious accommodations,” Shackelford said.
The letter to SecDef Austin was composed, urging him to allow the Department of Defense to grant religious exemptions.
It reads, in part:
Given your decades of service in the U.S. Army, you are fully cognizant that young men and women are not currently being drafted into active-duty service; instead, they are choosing to sign up to serve to protect our freedoms. These military members including Navy SEALs put their lives on the line in some of the riskiest and most important operations each year. We should be rewarding their bravery and the bravery of all our men and women in uniform, by not forcing them to choose between sincere religious convictions and staying in the military.
With the current threats we face – whether it be an emboldened Al-Qaeda or a rising communist regime in China – losing some of our military’s finest over a vaccine mandate would be a travesty. By not approving legitimate exemptions in a timely manner, you will be threatening the basic liberties of servicemen, servicewomen, and their families increasing the polarization of our armed forces, and potentially risking our national security.
We urge you to grant religious exemptions as soon as possible for every American risking their lives to defend our country. Religious freedom is enshrined in our Constitution and must always be protected.
Once the letter was signed by the thousands of faith leaders, it was sent to the Pentagon.
NFAB Founder and President Paula White-Cain said of this action,
“Unlike other countries, America was founded on the idea that we were God’s children and that the government is there to protect our rights and safety – not trample them. If our men and women in uniform are purged from the military because of this, our country will be less safe and it will signal to the public that their religious liberties could be at risk, too.”
Jennifer Korn is a spouse of a retired Marine and a senior advisor to NFAB. She also weighed in on the need for religious exemption:
“As a proud wife of a veteran, I can’t even fathom my husband or anyone in the military being kicked out of service and possibly being dishonorably discharged for requesting a religious exemption, after giving so much to our country. Our military members dedicate their lives to protect all Americans’ freedoms and they shouldn’t have to give up their own freedoms — especially their own faith.”
The National Faith Advisory Board was formed in September 2021 to continue the work started under President Donald J. Trump: to partner and unify a diverse coalition of faith leaders in order to amplify their voices and impact throughout the nation.
Biden’s vaccine mandates are being challenged on all sides, from individual, corporation, and group lawsuits, to federal and state legislative action. With the DoD deadline to remove unvaccinated service members quickly approaching, will the added pressure and negative PR cause SecDef Austin to qualify these religious exemptions? Or will he continue to plow ahead with the Biden Agenda, compromising the security and readiness of our fighting forces?