US Navy can no longer segregate unvaccinated service members who have applied for religious exemption, federal judge says

A group of Navy SEALs filed the original lawsuit against the US government last fall after the US military implemented a Covid-19 vaccine warrant. The SEAL group asked not to be reprimanded or denied deployments because they had requested a religious exemption from being vaccinated against the coronavirus, and it had not yet been granted.

In January, attorneys representing the Navy SEALs filed a class action lawsuit, asking that all US Navy service members who requested religious exemptions, more than 4,000 of them, not be reprimanded or separated. service for requesting a religious exemption.

Federal Judge for the Northern District of Texas Reed O’Connor granted the class action suit in a filing Monday.

The Supreme Court agreed last week to temporarily freeze part of the Lower North District of Texas court’s opinion requiring the Navy to deploy Navy SEALs in the case, even though they are still not vaccinated as per their order. application for religious exemption. In O’Connor’s filing authorizing the class action, he issued an order pursuant to that Supreme Court ruling and said the Navy can still consider service members’ vaccination status in deployment decisions. .

While the Navy can no longer separate service members for seeking a religious exemption to remain unvaccinated, the Navy is not required to deploy unvaccinated service members, per the Supreme Court ruling.

The Navy issued updated guidelines to comply with the district court order granting the class action lawsuit on March 30. Per the court order, the Navy will not impose any “adverse administrative consequence” on service members who have requested a religious exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to a Navy press release, 4,282 active US Navy service members and 3,267 US Navy Reserve service members remained unvaccinated as of March 30, and as of March 24, the Navy separated 732 service members for “refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.”

There were 4,187 requests for religious accommodation from serving US Navy service members and US Navy Reserve members, the statement said. There were no religious exemptions granted to active duty or reserve Navy members.

The deadline for active service members of the United States Navy to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 was November 28, 2021 and for reserve members it was December 28, 2021.

CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.


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