Court issues restraining order against Air Force COVID-19 vaccine mandate

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2021, file photo provided by the Department of Defense, Hickam 15th...
FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2021, file photo provided by the Department of Defense, Hickam 15th Medical Group hosts the first COVID-19 mass vaccination on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Military service members must immediately begin to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, ordering service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.” (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr./Department of Defense via AP)(Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson | AP)
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 3:17 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An Ohio court has issued a temporary national restraining order against the Air Force COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those who seek religious exemption.

The Thomas More Society says on Thursday, July 14, a federal court in Ohio temporarily issued a national restraining order to prevent the U.S. Air Force from enforcing the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate when a request for religious exemption is involved.

The society of Roman Catholic lawyers noted that the order prohibited enforcement of the mandate when a service member has submitted a religious accommodation request which has either been denied or remains pending. It said its attorneys are pleased with the development as it directly affects a lawsuit in which they represent several Air Force members.

The Society indicated that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio entered the order, which was effective immediately, to ban the enforcement of the vaccine mandate in Doster v. Kendall. It said the order is valid for 14 days, during which the court will consider a preliminary injunction to extend the ban and protect those who object on religious grounds until a trial is held.

“This is a huge victory for our country and religious freedom,” said Stephen Crampton, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel.

In a similar case, Air Force Officer v Austin, in Georgia, the Society said its attorneys won the first preliminary injunction in the nation against the Air Force vaccine mandate on behalf of one officer. It said it now represents three additional Air Force members and seeks class action certification for a nationwide injunction against the mandate. It noted the motions have been fully briefed and await a ruling.

“This order could not have come at a better time,” added Adam Hochschild, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The government has recently ordered imminent punitive action against those men and women of faith who cannot in good conscience take these experimental vaccines, and this order stops the government in its tracks.”

Judge Matthew McFarland said in the federal court order out of Ohio, “The facts show Defendants [the Air Force] have engaged in a pattern of denying religious accommodation requests.”

The Society noted that the Air Force has granted about 1% of all religious accommodation requests submitted - virtually all of which are for airmen who are set to leave the service. It said the court stated the class includes over 12,000 members and it found class certification proper due to seeking relief under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The court has correctly certified the class in Doster and rightly enjoined the Air Force mandate,” Crampton said. “It is gratifying to see the courts uphold their constitutional duty to ensure other branches of the government do not run roughshod over fundamental rights, as the Air Force has been doing here.”

For more information about the cases, click HERE.

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