Alabama-backed case confirms exemption from USAF COVID-19 vaccination

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday upholding the right of U.S. Air Force personnel to seek religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, along with attorneys general in 22 other states, filed a brief in September in support of the Airmen’s case.

Applauding the court’s decision, Marshall maintained that Air Force personnel need not sacrifice their religious freedom while serving in the armed forces.

“An aviator may sacrifice much to serve his country. That sacrifice should not include his right to freedom of religion,” Marshall said. “We have safeguards in place to ensure that an airman enjoys broadly the same rights to freedom of religion as his fellow citizens. These include the Freedom of Movement Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“This ruling by the Court of Appeals underscores that the freedom of religion of Air Force personnel must not be trampled upon by the government.”

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The attorney general explained that nearly 10,000 branch office workers filed for religious exemptions after Air Force-contracted military personnel received the COVID-19 vaccine. According to Marshall, the Air Force only granted 135 exemptions, with most who qualified scheduled to retire soon after.

“[I]In February, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Air Force members demanding religious freedom exemptions from the vaccination mandate,” he said. “In March, a federal district court ruled in their favor, issuing an injunction barring the Air Force from disciplining a member who claimed a religious liberty waiver from the vaccination mandate.

“After the Air Force appealed the federal district court’s ruling, I joined 20 other attorney generals to support the legal and constitutional rights of Airmen who were denied their rights. This week’s victory in the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ensures that the injunction protecting religious exceptions for Air Force members, including those on active duty, in the reserves, in the Air National Guard and in the Space Force , remains in force.”

Alabama’s chief law enforcement officer and the 22 other attorneys general filed a brief with the US Supreme Court in April challenging the Department of Defense’s similar failure to grant religious exemptions for military personnel from the COVID-19 vaccination.

Marshall also filed a brief in August supporting the right of Navy personnel to seek a religious exemption from the branch’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Alabama was supported by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming on filing the brief supports .

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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