Religious Freedom Group to Challenge Veterans Administration’s Vaccine Mandate

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
HillFaith Founding Editor, Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times, FOIA Hall of Fame, Reaganaut, Okie/Texan.
July 28, 2021 Updated: July 28, 2021

A public interest law firm that specializes in First Amendment religious freedom litigation is challenging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mandate that all employees be vaccinated against the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.

“The COVID shots have only been approved for experimental and investigational use. Under the federal Emergency Use Authorization law, these shots cannot be mandated or administered without the free and full consent of the individual,” Liberty Counsel founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement late July 27.

“The VA has no authority to mandate the COVID shots. Federal employees are also protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Forcing any person to receive one of these COVID injections is a violation of federal law. It is shocking that a federal agency would brazenly violate federal law.”

Staver’s comment followed a July 26 announcement by VA Secretary Denis McDonough that all “physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors—who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves” must be vaccinated against the virus.

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said in the statement.

“Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19. With this mandate, we can once again make—and keep—that fundamental promise.”

The virus is widely thought in the United States to have leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute for Virology in late 2019. The Chinese regime insists that the virus originated in bats and somehow made a leap to humans.

The first U.S. death from the virus came in January 2020, and by the middle of March, most of the country was on an economic and social lockdown and isolation that stretched into 2021.

More recently, a variant of the original virus has begun appearing, prompting officials to consider reimposing policies associated with the lockdown, including mandatory masks and social distancing.

President Joe Biden reportedly plans to extend the vaccine mandate to all federal employees. But Biden’s plan appears headed to a federal court showdown because, according to Staver, multiple VA employees have appealed to Liberty Counsel for help in challenging the mandate.

In its statement announcing plans to challenge the VA mandate, Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit, said: “Liberty Counsel has received many pleas for help, including doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and other healthcare workers, chaplains, and more. These employees do not want the COVID shots and are afraid of losing their jobs. Liberty Counsel will be representing these VA employees.”

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approved the currently available vaccines on an emergency use authorization (EAU), Liberty Counsel said, “people must be told the risks and benefits, and they have the right to decline a medication that is not fully licensed.” Full approval by the FDA is expected in the near future.

Liberty Counsel also said that “general, employee vaccine religious exemption requests must be accommodated, where a reasonable accommodation exists without undue hardship to the employer, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

“Many people hold sincere religious beliefs against taking any vaccines, or taking those derived from aborted fetal cell lines, or taking those sold by companies that profit from the sale of vaccines and other products derived from abortion,” it said.

“Title VII, as amended, prohibits two categories of employment practices. It is unlawful for an employer: ‘(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin … or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.’”

Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) told The Epoch Times that “the Biden administration displays incredible hypocrisy by imposing and rescinding vaccine and mask mandates seemingly at random while allowing thousands of illegal aliens to flood our Southern border unchecked, many of whom are carrying COVID.”

Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be contacted at: mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc. Follow him on Twitter at @mtapscott and on Parler at @Mtapscott.

Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
HillFaith Founding Editor, Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times, FOIA Hall of Fame, Reaganaut, Okie/Texan.