Federal judge rejects firing of unvaccinated Navy sailors as violation of First Amendment rights

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U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor

There is “no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment” and a pandemic doesn’t mean the government can “abrogate those freedoms,” said a federal judge in Texas as he disallowed the firing of 35 U.S. Navy personnel who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and sued when they were terminated.

The Navy members objected to the mandated vaccines on religious grounds since the formula’s development depended on cells from aborted fetuses, according to DailyMail.com. Getting the injections would force them “to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by causing them to participate in the abortion enterprise,” according to the lawsuit, filed in November against the Department of Defense, Joe Biden and top military officials only days before the mandate was set to go into effect.

The military branches recently began sacking noncompliant soldiers and officers, each branch setting its own deadline after Joe Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, issued a memo in August demanding all service members to be vaccinated. Active duty Navy personnel had until Nov. 28 to get the shots.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 3, and made the observation about COVID not being able to nullify First Amendment rights.

O’Connor, 56, a Republican, was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007. 

The percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each military branch is at least 95 percent, however the unvaccinated number nearly 30,000.  

On Dec. 16, the Marines announced they had fired 103 members for not being vaccinated. The Army said it fired six people, including two commanding officers.

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