40 Navy Seals push for religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandate: 'Fighting for their careers'

Members of SEAL Team 18 perform a demonstration at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, on June 20, 2014 for the Navy Employer Recognition Event.
Members of SEAL Team 18 perform a demonstration at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, on June 20, 2014 for the Navy Employer Recognition Event. | Public Domain

A group of about 40 Navy Seals is prepared to file legal action against the Pentagon over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, due to claims that they have been wrongfully denied a religious exemption.

Attorney Michael Berry of the First Liberty Institute, the legal nonprofit that is representing the 40 service members seeking a religious exemption, told Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson in an interview Tuesday evening that he believed his clients are “fighting for their careers.”

“You would think in this country, the Department of Defense would respect religious beliefs, but instead the Navy is using religious beliefs as some sort of ideological litmus test to purge anybody who opposes the vaccine from our military,” Berry explained.

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“Our clients, these Navy Seals, they’ve been told that even if their request is ultimately approved, they’re going to be removed from the Navy Seal community.”

Berry also took issue with the Defense Department limiting travel for unvaccinated family members of Navy Seals personnel, rhetorically asking: “since when does the DoD have authority or jurisdiction over family members?”

Berry also voiced concern with a policy that could enable the Navy to force service members to repay the cost of their training and education if they are discharged for refusing the vaccine. 

A spokesperson with First Liberty informed The Christian Post on Wednesday that they are planning to file a lawsuit "in the very near future" if the Navy does not lift the mandate, adding that they "are prepared for litigation." 

In August, the Pentagon announced that would require U.S. military personnel to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September, citing combat readiness as a justification.

“Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance, requiring all service members to be vaccinated,” stated Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.

“These efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live.”

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the U.S. Navy, released a statement at the end of August voicing support for the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate.

“The DoD’s mandatory vaccination policy is the proven way to ensure the readiness and the safety of our naval force, DoD civilian work force, and the American people and our allies and partners,” stated Gillingham.

“Vaccinating every eligible service member improves readiness and ensures our Sailors and Marines are equipped with the biological body armor needed to protect ourselves from biological threats.”

The Washington Post reported earlier this month there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel who are either unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

The percentages of fully vaccinated personnel varied between the services, with 90% of Navy reported as vaccinated versus 72% of the Marine Corps.

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