The warship that U.S. Navy officials described as undeployable if they were not able to remove the unvaccinated commander was actually deployed when the assertions were made, the commander told a judge during a recent hearing.
"No sir, I do not," the commander, who has not been publicly named, said when asked whether he thought the officials' statements were accurate.
In an emergency motion to the judge on Feb. 28, officials alleged the ruling was affecting military readiness because unvaccinated sailors "pose a risk to other personnel" since the COVID-19 vaccines have proven effective at halting the spread of the virus that causes the disease.
"I was out at sea" on Feb. 28, when the motion was entered, the commander said.
The training exercises the ship was completing lasted through about March 4, according to the commander.
The Navy and Department of Justice, whose lawyers are representing the military in the case, declined to comment.
"I'm here today because the military is not executing this policy while respecting the constitutional freedoms laid out in the First Amendment or RFRA," the commander said, referring to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "I should not be the one standing here to say that today; generals and admirals, the executives in our service, should be here to say that to the politics, to the bureaucracy, to their decision-making."
One day after the hearing, the judge rejected the government's motion.
The Navy has asked an appeals court to step in; that court has yet to rule on the request.