July 15, 2022

Judge Issues Extension for Troops with Religious Exemption

  • Flyover Country

By Ophelia Garrett

In Brief: 

On Thursday, a court in Ohio issued a temporary restraining order blocking troops with religious exemptions from being discharged due to their vaccination status. According to Breitbart, “Judge Matthew W. McFarland (a Trump appointee) granted a motion brought by airmen to extend a court order from March 31 that prohibited the Air Force from disciplining or discharging plaintiffs fighting the mandate based on their religious beliefs to all airmen who filed religious accommodation requests as a ‘class.’”

The Background:

If Judge McFarland continues to believe that the mandate is illegal, after looking into the matter further, the court will then convert the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction at the end of that window. That action will effectively protect all of these service members while the Biden administration sends the decision to the Sixth Circuit appellate court. 

The court stated: 

“All active-duty and active reserve members of the United States Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Cadets, Members of the Air Force Reserve Command, and any Airman who has sworn or affirmed the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office and is currently under command and could be deployed, who: (i) submitted a religious accommodation request to the Air Force from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement, where the request was submitted or was pending, from September 1, 2021 to the present; (ii) were confirmed as having had a sincerely held religious belief by or through Air Force Chaplains; and (iii) either had their requested accommodation denied or have not had action on that request.”The outcome of this case will play a part in determining the future of religious freedom in the U.S. military. 

Notable Quotes:
“Despite the Air Force’s apparent policy and practice of denying virtually all religious accommodation requests, the Air Force has granted 729 medical exemption requests and 1,006 administrative exemption requests since implementing its COVID-19 vaccination requirement policy September 1, 2021” - Judge Matthew McFarland, U.S. District Circuit Court for the Southern District of Ohio

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