Washington Civil Rights Council

Court rules Air Force Vaccine Policy Violated First Amendment Freedoms

On March 31, 2022, the District Court for Southern District of Ohio made another critical ruling at the Federal level upholding Freedom of Religion.   The Court granted a preliminary injunction, blocking the Air Force from “taking any adverse or punitive action, including but not limited to disciplinary or separation measures, against the Plaintiffs for their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” Read the full court Order here

The Court concluded that the Air Force had indeed impinged on the Religious Freedom rights of its airmen.  Judge Matthew W. McFarland justified the Court’s intervening with the sentiment “If the Court withholds review, Plaintiffs find themselves in the iniquitous position of choosing between their First Amendment freedoms and their livelihoods and benefits for each of them and their families.”   

Notably, the Court also dismissed the military’s argument that the unvaccinated pose harm or a disruption to military operations.  The Judge wrote in the Court’s Order , “It is therefore ‘illogical … that Plaintiff[s’] religious-based refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine would ‘seriously impede’ military function when the [Navy] has [over 5,000] service members still on duty who are just as unvaccinated as [the Plaintiffs]”).  Defendants have not identified any specific harm resulting from Plaintiffs’ unvaccinated status at any time during the pandemic or since the mandate has been in place.