Oklahoma Judge Denies State’s Request to Stop National Guard COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
December 29, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021

An Oklahoma federal judge on Tuesday ruled against an attempt from the state to block the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for National Guard members.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot rejected a motion from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Attorney General John O’Connor, and sixteen Oklahoma Air National Guard members for a preliminary injunction to the mandate, saying the plaintiffs’ claims were “without merit,” and thus the motion would be denied.

Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor, both outspoken critics of vaccine mandates, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the vaccine mandate on Dec. 3, 2021.

In a complaint (pdf) which names President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and dozens more federal officials and agencies as defendants, the state argued that the mandate violates the Constitution and has no legal basis.

“This vaccine mandate certainly interferes with the sovereign prerogatives of the State of Oklahoma. It undermines the laws, public policy, dignity, and interests of the State of Oklahoma in governing the field of public health, including vaccinations,” the state wrote in its complaint.

However, in a 29-page ruling this week, senior District Judge Stephen P. Friot wrote that “the court would be hard-put to find that the public interest would be served by entry of an order prohibiting the implementation of a vaccine mandate which adds one FDA-approved vaccine to the list of nine that all service members are already required to take–that tenth vaccine being the one which has been shown to be remarkably effective in mitigating the effects of the pandemic which has affected millions of Americans, including thousands of service members.”

“The court is required to decide the case on the basis of federal law, not common sense. But, either way, the result would be the same,” Friot said.

The district judge did, however, urge the Biden administration to give members of the National Guard more time to comply with the mandate before action was taken against them that could directly or indirectly end their military careers.

Unvaccinated members of the National Guard who fail to get their COVID-19 shots by the June 30, 2022 deadline will be barred from participating in drills, training, and other duties, unless they are granted an exemption in accordance with department policy, according to a memo sent to military officials by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month.

vaccine
A member of the U.S. Armed Forces administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a police officer at a FEMA community vaccination center in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 2, 2021. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Epoch Times Photo
Preventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a soldier in Fort Knox, Ky., on Sept. 9, 2021. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

National Guard members who are not vaccinated by next year’s deadline will also not receive any payment from the Department of Defense for their performed duties. The deadline for Air National Guard members to be fully vaccinated was Dec. 2.

Stitt and O’Connor are asking the court to block the mandate for all federal employees, not just the National Guard.

“Having denied the motion, the court cannot but note the potential consequences, for individual Guard members, of failure to comply with the vaccine mandate,” Friot wrote in the ruling. “Loss of one or two paychecks is one thing, serious though that may be in individual cases. What the court cannot ignore is the potentially devastating effect of involuntary separation (either as a result of direct action or as a result of continuing loss of pay), especially where, as appears to be the case here, the individual non-compliant Guard members did not have the benefit of well-informed leadership at the highest level of the Oklahoma Guard.”

“The court strongly urges the defendants to give every consideration to providing a brief grace period–to facilitate prompt compliance with the vaccination mandate–before directly or indirectly taking action which would end the military careers of any Oklahoma Guard members,” Friot said.

Oklahoma state officials have filed numerous lawsuits challenging such federal mandates. The White House maintains that fully vaccinated individuals are 10 times less likely to be hospitalized with CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and are better protected against the disease and its variants, including Delta.

Stitt asked Austin earlier this month to suspend the vaccine requirement for Guardsmen in the state because it “asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs.” The governor noted that some 10 percent of Oklahoma’s force could be lost if the mandate remained in effect. Austin denied that request.

A spokesperson for both Stitt and O’Connor told The Associated Press that they’re still reviewing the judge’s decision.

“We filed this lawsuit to support these Oklahomans who object to the president’s vaccine mandate,” O’Connor’s office said in a statement. “We are disappointed with this decision.”

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for the Oklahoma National Guard.

Friot noted in his ruling that 89 percent of the airmen in the Guard have been vaccinated, while just 40 percent of Army guardsmen have been vaccinated.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.