WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Courtroom is giving the Navy a freer hand figuring out what job assignments it offers to 35 sailors who sued after refusing on spiritual grounds to adjust to an order to get vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19.
The excessive court docket in a short order Friday sided with the Biden administration and stated that whereas the lawsuit performs out, the Navy might contemplate the sailors’ vaccination standing in making deployment, project and different operational selections. The group that sued consists of principally Navy SEALs.
Three justices famous that they disagreed with their colleagues’ determination and would have sided with the group of SEALs.
A federal choose in Texas in January issued a preliminary injunction barring the Navy from appearing in opposition to the sailors. The Biden administration stated it was not asking the Supreme Courtroom to dam elements of the decrease court docket order barring the sailors from being disciplined or discharged however solely the requirement that their assignments be made with out contemplating their vaccination standing. That requirement posed “insupportable dangers to security and mission success,” the administration had argued.
“Navy personnel routinely function for prolonged intervals of time in confined areas which might be ripe breeding grounds for respiratory diseases, the place mitigation measures equivalent to distancing are impractical or not possible. A SEAL who falls sick not solely can’t full his or her personal mission, however dangers infecting others as nicely, significantly in shut quarters, together with on submarines,” Biden administration attorneys wrote.
Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin final yr made vaccinations obligatory for service members. Navy pointers enable for exemptions to the vaccine requirement on spiritual and different grounds, together with medical causes and if a servicemember is about to go away the Navy. The Biden administration says the Navy has obtained greater than 4,000 requests for spiritual exemptions, however it stated that as of the beginning of February solely about 80 had been totally adjudicated. It stated one spiritual exemption had been granted.
Legal professionals for the group of sailors that sued had argued that the Navy had granted lots of of non-religious exemptions. They stated that in asking the excessive court docket to permit vaccine standing to be thought-about, the Navy was looking for “license to interact in hostile techniques designed to coerce plaintiffs into disregarding their spiritual beliefs.”
Decrease courts had denied the Biden administration’s plea to be allowed to contemplate vaccination standing. That features a federal choose in Texas, Reed O’Connor, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, and a three-judge panel of the fifth U.S Circuit Courtroom of Appeals. Two of these judges have been appointees of former President Donald Trump whereas the third was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan.