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'Coercion, Bullying, Censorship': Military Service Members and Gov't Contractors Sue to Block DOD Vax Mandates


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A broad new legal challenge is underway against President Biden's COVID vaccine mandates for U.S. service members and Defense Department contractors.

The Liberty Counsel has filed a class-action lawsuit along with a motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction against Biden, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Defense Lloyd Austin, and U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

They're suing on behalf of members from five of the six branches of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard –  along with federal employees and federal civilian contractors, who argue they've been unlawfully mandated to get the COVID shots or face dishonorable discharge from the military or termination from employment.

The complaint was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. 

According to Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit religious freedom law firm, they are representing 14 members of the U.S. military, including several officers, enlisted personnel as well as several federal contractors who work for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. 

In a sworn statement to the law firm, one Navy chaplain said besides intimidating military personnel against objecting to the COVID vaccine, military commanders have turned a blind eye to a real problem among young men and women – suicide within their ranks. 

"I personally observed (and the Sailors told me in the course of counseling about) tremendous amounts of coercion, bullying, censorship, and intimidation being brought forth by the command to bear against the personnel who expressed objections of any kind to the COVID shot mandates, including religious objections…And clearly, the military has lost more lives to the increase in suicide from 2020-2021 (at least 1,012) than to all of COVID in 2 years (52), but suicide has not been a focus," the chaplain said. 

Background and Health Concerns

On August 24, Secretary of Defense Austin ordered the DOD vaccine mandates, saying, "The Secretaries of the Military Departments should impose ambitious timelines for implementation. Military Departments will report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting." 

His memo also states, "Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance." The legal complaint argues there are currently no fully FDA-approved COVID-19 shots in the United States, saying every COVID shot in America remains under authorization of emergency use, which means people have the "option to accept or refuse" them. 

On June 23, 2021, Dr. Matthew Oster, who serves on Biden's CDC COVID-19 Task Force, admitted in a PowerPoint presentation that the shots are causing myocarditis in "young men aged 16-30," and he added that "It does appear that mRNA vaccines may be a new trigger for Myocarditis." This information about myocarditis is widely known by the CDC. 

On June 29, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) published a report in the highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology (JAMA Cardiology) entitled Myocarditis Following Immunization with mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines in Members of the U.S. Military. The study reports that previously healthy service members have developed myocarditis, a severe and life-threatening inflammation of the heart, within an average of just four days of receiving their first shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna jabs. 

Complaint Argues COVID Shots Cannot Be Mandated Under Emergency Use Authorization Law 

Despite the known potential for harm to members of the military, the shot mandate was imposed on all members, Liberty Counsel's complaint argues. Merely submitting a religious exemption request is met with abuse and threats of dishonorable discharge.  Likewise, federal employees and civilian contractors similarly have faced opposition, but none of the civilian contractors have received any guidance on where or how to file a religious exemption. 

Yet, the deadlines for everyone are approaching in November and December at which time they will be terminated for not receiving an inoculation.  

As CBN News reported in September, Biden announced new executive orders mandating COVID shots for many private employees as well as all federal employees and contractors, with no exceptions. He required that all federal contractors and subcontractors receive one of the shots as a condition of continued contract service with the U. S. government.

The COVID shots cannot be mandatory under the federal Emergency Use Authorization law (EUA), Liberty Counsel argues in its lawsuit.  All of the COVID-19 shots (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen) have received only EUA authorization and not full FDA approval. The federal EUA law and the FDA, including the FDA Fact sheets, state unequivocally that each person has the "option to accept or refuse" the shots. 

In addition, the Fact sheets for all three (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen) state it is a personal choice to take the shots: ("It is your choice to receive or not to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine."); ("It is your choice to receive or not to receive the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine."); and ("It is your choice to receive or not to receive the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.") 

In very limited cases, the President can waive the EUA law for the military. However, he has not done so and has no authority to do so under the law and facts, according to the case's legal documents. 

According to the Liberty Counsel, the plaintiffs they represent all hold sincere religious beliefs against the COVID shots on the basis that their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and to defile it is a sin against God. In addition, the plaintiffs do not want to participate directly or indirectly or otherwise be associated with the destruction of human life through abortion by injecting a product that contains or was tested or developed with aborted fetal cell lines. 

The plaintiffs' free exercise of religion is protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), the law firm contends. 

Regarding RFRA, the Supreme Court wrote, "That statute prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that doing so both furthers a compelling governmental interest and represents the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Because RFRA operates as a kind of super statute, displacing the normal operation of other federal laws, it might supersede Title VII's commands in appropriate cases."

In addition to RFRA, the plaintiffs' free exercise of religion is also protected by the First Amendment. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "The Biden administration has no authority to require the COVID shots for the military or for federal employees or civilian contractors. Nor can the Biden administration pretend that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment do not apply to its unlawful mandates. The Commander-in-Chief must end this shameful treatment and abuse of our brave military heroes. Forcing the COVID shots without consent or consideration for their sincere religious beliefs is illegal." 

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of