Service members from all five branches of the U.S. military, federal employees, and federal civilian contractors have joined in a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Defense over its COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The 24 plaintiffs “face a deadline under the Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate to receive a COVID-19 vaccine that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs, and have been refused any religious exemption or accommodation,” according to Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal firm that filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit (pdf), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, lists President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as defendants.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order (pdf) to prevent the COVID-19 vaccine mandates from taking effect, and ultimately issue an injunction to prevent the Pentagon from enforcing the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Biden on Sept. 9 issued an executive order requiring almost all federal employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Regular testing isn’t an option. Civilian federal employees and contractors have until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated.
Austin issued a memorandum on Aug. 24 saying that all military service members must receive a COVID-19 vaccine, after which all the branches of the military announced various deadlines for its troops to be fully vaccinated, regardless of whether they had previously survived a bout of COVID-19, and threatening suspensions or other disciplinary actions if service members don’t have a pending exemption request or fail to comply.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have set a Nov. 28 deadline for their active-duty service members; reservists have until Dec. 28. For the Army and the Air Force, the deadlines for active-duty service members are Dec. 15 and Nov. 2, respectively, and deadlines for National Guard and Reserve members are June 30, 2022, and Dec. 2, 2021, respectively. U.S. Coast Guard members have until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated.