Mike Berry with First Liberty Institute, which represents the Navy SEALs’ religious exemption lawsuit, said the “religious hostility” being displayed by the military’s leadership is of great detriment to morale and consequently, national security.
These service members want to know that the U.S. government will give them the same freedoms that they are putting their lives on the line for, Berry said.
“Morale is in the tank right now. Recruiting numbers are some of the lowest we’ve seen in years. And I think this is part of the reason why people who are serving in the military want to know that the government, that the United States military has their back,” Berry told The Epoch Times.
Berry said many members who have already been expelled from the Navy because of their religious convictions have told him this experience has impacted their faith in the Navy’s leadership.
Many he has talked to are saying: “Even if they allowed me to go back in, I don’t want to go in anymore. I’ve lost my faith and confidence in our country, in our military, in our military leadership. I don’t trust them to do the right thing anymore.
“That’s why this is so devastating to our national security, to America’s trust and confidence in the military.”
In March, the Navy SEALs were issued a class-wide injunction, making it so that instead of just the 35 SEALs being represented, it potentially protects everyone in the Navy who requested a religious exemption said, Berry.
“Each is subject to the Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Each has submitted her religious accommodation request, and none has received accommodation. Without relief, each servicemember faces the threat of discharge and the consequences that accompany it. Even though their personal circumstances may factually differ in small ways, the threat is the same—get the jab or lose your job,” U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee said in a 27-page order.
Some making the argument for the vaccine mandate for the military say that the United States won the Revolutionary War because George Washington mandated that troops be inoculated against Smallpox. But, Berry argues that they won because of their spirit and that the Constitution priorities religious freedom under all circumstances.
“When they wrote the First Amendment, they didn’t say, ‘oh, but this doesn’t apply during a time of pandemic or a time of disease or a time of famine or a time of war,’” said Berry. “They believe that the free exercise of religion is a foundational right to all freedom, and they wanted to protect that and enshrine that for future generations to come.”
If this case drags on and service members do not get their exemptions, the evidence will mount in favor of the Navy SEALs that what the military is doing is completely unconstitutional, Berry said.
“I think as more and more evidence of that comes forward, then my hope and expectation are that the Supreme Court will take a closer look at that and realize that Navy [leadership] is not being entirely truthful about what it’s doing with this evidence of vaccination status.”
Part of that evidence is that the U.S. Navy is allowing members to get medical or administrative exemptions but religious exemptions have been universally denied.
“They’re using it as a way of punishing them, which is unconstitutional and it’s illegal.”
He encourages everyone to get behind this Navy lawsuit and follow what is going on by going to firstliberty.org because there is still a long road ahead to ensure justice.
“I suspect that the Department of Justice … they’re probably going to appeal that. And we’ll end up back in the court of appeals again, so this case still has a lot of life left in it. And First Liberty Institute is going to continue to fight every step of the way,” said Berry. “And please get behind us.”
Berry said while there is no plan currently to represent the other branches of the military in this type of religious exemption lawsuit, he hopes they will be victorious and the military will lift all vaccine mandates.
“When you serve in the military, you give up some of your freedoms, some of your autonomy, you don’t give up your religious freedom. But that’s exactly what the Biden administration is doing to our military right now. They are depleting morale, they’re reducing readiness. They’re putting our country at risk. They’re putting lives at risk.”