The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Service members fight vaccine coercion

A federal class-action lawsuit alleges that military members have been threatened and abused for requesting religious exemptions to COVID shots.

The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America has a crew of 3,000, all of whom face mandatory COVID-19 shots. (Photo: David Mark / Pixabay)

United States military service members have been demoted, harassed, abused and threatened by superiors for seeking religious exemptions to the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a federal class-action lawsuit alleges. One Air Force technical sergeant—seven months pregnant—who requested exemption faces court martial if she doesn’t take the shots, the suit says.

Nearly two dozen service members, federal employees and contractors filed suit Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against President Joseph R. Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the U.S. military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued in August. It says the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated their commitments to the United States Constitution and the nation’s future comfort, security and prosperity,” the suit said. “This court should demand that the nation return the favor. Telling plaintiffs they must accept or receive a shot they oppose according to their sincerely held religious beliefs, or face court martial, dishonorable discharge and other-life altering disciplinary measures, disgraces the sacrifices these heroes have made.”

Plaintiffs include a wide range of ranks from the U.S. Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard, plus federal employees and contractors. Among the plaintiffs are two Navy SEALs, an Army Ranger, a Navy chaplain, two lieutenant colonels, a full colonel, an explosives ordnance disposal officer and a senior chief petty officer. Some had their request for religious exemption denied, while others were demoted or reassigned after submitting their requests, the suit says.

“The Biden administration has no authority to require the COVID shots for the military or for federal employees or civilian contractors,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a public-interest law firm that represents the service members. “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.”

Coercion and threats used

On Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Austin issued a vaccine mandate, assuring service personnel that the military “will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…” Austin said vaccine mandates “are familiar to all of our service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself.” Service personnel and contractors face deadlines between Nov. 22 and Dec. 15 to receive a COVID-19 shot.

The suit describes coercion directed at those who requested a religious exemption to the mandate. Many of the plaintiffs oppose the shots over research and development ties to cell lines derived from aborted babies. Service members have been threatened with court martial, dishonorable discharge and loss of benefits for requesting exemptions, the suit said.

“Defendants are threatening these military heroes with dishonorable discharge for even requesting a religious exemption from the COVID-19 shots,” the suit reads. “Dishonorable discharge is worse than criminal conviction for these service members, because it is a badge of disgrace that follows them for the rest of their lives.”

A plaintiff identified only as Navy SEAL 1 was denied a religious exemption, then “preemptively removed from his position as platoon chief,” the suit says. An explosives ordnance disposal officer who asked for an exemption was placed on “not physically qualified” (NPQ) status that could cost him his position if his religious exemption is denied. A Navy chief petty officer who obtained sub-investigator certification from the FDA in 2017 said COVID-19 vaccine policies are “completely the opposite” of what he learned from the FDA in 2017, especially as it relates to informed consent, the suit said.

A Navy chaplain serving with a carrier strike group said many sailors are anguished to tears over pressure to take the shots. “I personally observed and experienced 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,” the chaplain said in an affidavit. The chaplain requested his own exemption, but his commander opposed it, the suit said.  “If his request is not approved, Navy chaplain fears being forced to choose between his career of service to fellow sailors, which he loves, and his faith in God and God’s commands.”

A Marine Corps lieutenant colonel requested a religious exemption over her opposition to abortion — something she developed after being forgiven by God for procuring an abortion after being raped. “The COVID shot mandate, given the use of aborted fetal cell lines in testing and development, places Lieutenant Colonel 2 in the position of reliving her rape and subsequent abortion, by being forcibly injected with a product tested on or made with aborted fetal cells…”

A lance corporal who requested a religious exemption due to his Christian beliefs was told by several non-commissioned officers “it is unlikely your religious exemption request will be approved” because “they’re just going to deny them all.”

No approved vaccines available?

Despite assurances the military will only use “fully licensed” vaccines, none of the shots available in the United States has full FDA approval, the suit says. On Aug. 23 the FDA approved the COVID-19 shot Comirnaty, which has the same formulation as the emergency-use Pfizer-BioNTech shots. The suit says Comirnaty is not available in the U.S., meaning only emergency vaccines are in use. Under federal law, such shots cannot be compelled. The FDA has said Comirnaty and the Pfizer-BioNTech shots are “legally distinct.”

Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots need to be used before the fully approved Comirnaty becomes available, the suit said. “There are currently no available doses of Comirnaty in the United States and Comirnaty is not being manufactured for production and distribution in the United States at this time.”

The class-action suit is the latest salvo in the vaccine-mandate wars that erupted in recent months. Litigation filed in dozens of states by student athletes, police officers, firefighters and health care workers, alleges constitutional rights are being trampled by illegal shot mandates. Many of the lawsuits center around religious objections to the shots, although some argue that COVID survivors with natural immunity against reinfection should likewise be exempt.

Liberty Counsel said the treatment received by its clients is a slap in the face to those who put their lives on the line to defend the Constitution. “For to turn the same Constitution that United States Armed Forces members protect and defend into a weapon against them would be a travesty unknown to the nation’s founding character, and eclipse any dereliction of duty heretofore seen in the great experiment of America.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Joseph M. Hanneman 101 Articles
Joseph M. Hanneman writes from Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. Which is riskier and more important to avoid?

    A virus made by the Communist Chinese government in a lab in China?

    Or a vaccine made by Capitalist Americans in a lab in the USA?

    • Nice try but no.
      It’s not about risk. It’s about unlawful coercion to take an experimental vaccine.
      Hmmm, something about this issue got several people hanged after a small, little known trial trial at Nuremberg. But, never mind, that was long ago. It can’t happen here.

  2. Risk is not the issue. Mandates are the issue. The federal government cannot force anyone to violate their conscience. The First Amendment of our Constitution forbids the government from interfering with religious beliefs, period. There is no exception noted in the Amendment. Those who believe that the currently available vaccines are morally tainted by being connected to abortion and fetal cell research should be exempted without question. To do otherwise is to violate our Constitution, which this administration ignores on a regular basis.

    • Donna,
      Please correct me if I’m wrong, but risk is related to the issue in many cases. The health risk assessment of the virus danger versus the vaccine danger for a 90 year old with many co-morbidities [who will certainly die from the virus] is much different than for a 5 year old as Newsom of California will soon dictate.

      The 5 year has no real threat from COVID, but the vaccine will kill or cause permanent bodily damage to these youngsters. In these cases, the vaccine is like poison.

  3. It would have been a great help to our service personnel if the bishops (and the pope) had opposed a “vaccine” developed with aborted baby cells. Then again, instead of opposing it many of the bishops actually require it of their clergy and diocesan employees. Terrible.

  4. Can anyone, at any time, for any reason, in good conscience, claim religious conscience as a reason for an exception to any mandate or prohibition imposed by law or by one’s employer?

    If yes, then isn’t that the political philosophy of Anarchism, as promoted by Antifa?

    Some Americans have claimed a religious exemption to paying federal income tax. Some Americans have claimed a religious exemption to laws against incest. Native Americans claimed a religious conscience exception to federal laws against certain illegal drugs.

    As a practical matter, doesn’t there always have to be some authoritative collective entity (court; legislature) that issues a ruling about which claims of religious conscience are to be respected and which are not?

    To live in any society or civilization means sacrificing individualism to some degree, doesn’t it?

    A hermit living alone in a remote forest can do whatever he wants (untrammeled individualism).

    But the minute people start living together, there has to be an authority that mandates law and order, and renders impossible any complete and total individualism, right?

    In the world of Judaism, a consensus of rabbis decides matters of Jewish laws and Jewish conscience.

    In the Catholic world, the pope and bishops in communion with him decides matters of Catholic moral laws and Catholic conscience.

    And in the United States, courts decide which government laws must be obeyed.

    Otherwise, we have anarchism, violence in the streets, violent crime run amok, looting, raping and pillaging, rampant frauds and hoaxes, QAnon conspiracies, Black Lives Matter riots, January 6, 2021 Capital riots, and all that, right?

    Every time I see smart people, whether of the left or the right, secular or religious, implicitly advocating the political philosophy of Anarchism, I ask: “Have they lost their minds? Or am the dullard who can’t see the genius, righteousness, and feasibility of Anarchism?”

    • It is ridiculous to conflate religious exemption to anarchism. There is a reason why religious exemption is enshrined in law. Otherwise you are saying that the law itself promotes anarchism.

    • Your thinking – if it can be called that – is ridiculously rigid and absolutistic. Nothing is as neatly black or white as you imagine.

  5. CWR here is doing a great disservice. Instead of helping turn the tide of the pandemic through the promotion of the truth and calls for action as all responsible Catholics all over the world do from the Pope up down to physicians and health care professionals, it is peddling and propagating vaccine scepticism by taking cues from disinformation operatives and partisan propagandists instead of scientists and the Catholic teaching to love our neighbors.

    • It’s called journalism, Elena. Disagree with the viewpoint of the service members and so many others, but be mindful that slinging around loaded terms without actually paying attention to what is really happening is both a disservice and a failure to pursue truth.

    • CWR is not promoting vaccine skepticism. It is promoting information. Information that the powers that would like censored so that every meek lamb will toe the line while the shepherd leads them to the ravine.

      You cannot pin your hope on so called scientists because this is not just a case of science but BIG PHARMA and all that entails.

      Many have taken the vaccine and died or been disabled. The vaccine made use of cells taken from a baby WHILE IT WAS STILL ALIVE. The death of the babies were brought about by the extraction of the kidney and other body parts.

      The number 293 next to HEK means that there are 293 attempts to finally get this cell line. 293 attempts. How many babies did they dissect alive so that we can get a gene therapy because mind you it is not a vaccine but gene therapy by Pfizers’s own admission.

      Now you may be comfortable with the reality that most likely more than a hundred babies were dissected alive so we can have that gene therapy. But very many call that a sin that cries to God and refuse to be part of such a grievous crime no matter how remote.

      I suggest you read the 2 articles in this same magazine titled Exploring the Dark World of Vaccines and Fetal tissue research.

      The Church ruling that it is okay to use this vaccine that was made possible by the murder of so many babies is what has emboldened governments to bludgeon Catholics into submission.

      If the Church will say it is okay to benefit from the murder of many babies, then it is rather hypocritical to protest abortion. Abortion then becomes okay so long as we can derive benefit from it. Mengele comes to mind.

    • A propos my earlier reply.

      We cannot love our neighbour and at the expense of the murder of millions of babies. Our love becomes fake if we sake it is okay for the unborn to die so that we may have vaccines that will save our lives.

      So think of those babies being murdered while you glory in the comfort that you are “protected” from COVID. A false comfort because vaccinated people still get the disease and still die.

      Read up on the rather recent expose by CMP on the sale of fetal body parts. Watch the videos as they laugh about providing baby kidneys and hearts while they joke about buying a lamborghini from the proceeds of this very lucrative trade. That’s the kind of evil that made your vaccine possible.

    • Well said Elena. Anyone against this life-saving vaccine cannot call themselves pro-life. Hundreds of thousands Americans have died because Americans could not work together to minimize the effects of this pandemic. Shameful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.