Air Force barred from booting unvaccinated
A federal judge in Ohio on Thursday certified a national class action lawsuit against the US Air Force and issued a restraining order forbidding the military branch from enforcing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate on airmen seeking religious exemption.
Judge Matthew McFarland ordered the entire Air Force to cease the mandatory vaccination of all active-duty and reserve members objecting on religious grounds. The order is temporary and expires in 14 days, during which time President Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall III, is required to make his case for the mandate to stand.
The case was brought by a few dozen airmen stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, but McFarland’s ruling impacts more than 9,000 service members nationally and internationally who have sought religious exemptions from the jab. According to court documents, the Air Force had only approved 86 of these requests as of early June.
Should the case be brought to higher courts, its outcome is uncertain. Back in April, the US Supreme Court ruled against an Air Force officer who refused to be vaccinated on religious grounds. The court gave no explanation for its ruling, but conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.
Active duty Air Force members were required to be vaccinated by November 2021, with reservists and members of the Air National Guard having until January of this year to get the shot. The military’s mandatory vaccine policy was imposed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and approved by Biden last August.
Across the entire US military, some 268,858 troops and 50,710 civilian employees remain “partially vaccinated,” according to Pentagon figures. This number counts those not up to date on their shots, and does not include those who haven’t received a single dose.
The US Army declared last week that unvaccinated troops would no longer be paid and could face separation from the military. The deadline for part-time Army Reservists and National Guardsmen to receive the vaccine passed last week too, leaving more than 60,000 of these part-timers at risk of punishment.
Some 6,400 service members have already been kicked out for refusing to get the shot, with the majority being Marines, according to statistics cited by Breitbart.