‘America First’ Policy Group Backs Lawsuit by Navy SEALs Suing Biden over Vaccine Mandate

President Joe Biden participates in a meeting on cybersecurity, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
White House Photo / Adam Schultz

The America First Policy Institute (AFPI) announced Tuesday it had filed an amicus brief in support of a group of Navy SEALs suing President Joe Biden for the military’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.

Thirty-five Navy SEALs, represented by First Liberty, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration earlier this month, seeking a legal, religious accommodation to the mandate. The Navy SEALs have had their careers and livelihoods threatened with punishment, involuntary separation, and court-martial for not wanting to get the vaccine.

Pam Bondi, chair of AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership, said in a statement:

The Constitutional Litigation Partnership stands strong in supporting the United States Navy SEALS in their fight against the unconstitutional vaccine mandate. No one, including our military, should be required to choose between violating their religious beliefs and serving our country. We stand united with our men and women in uniform and their families. These heroes have selflessly served our Nation and dedicated their lives to protecting our freedoms – it is now our turn to protect theirs.

The group argued in its brief that forcing religious servicemembers to either violate their conscience or be negatively discharged undermines U.S. national security by “directly causing an immediate, significant loss of American military strength for an order that illegally and unnecessarily undermines military readiness.”

The Pentagon has warned that those who do not comply with the Biden administration’s mandatory vaccination order will face consequences, including separation from the military. That could apply to tens of thousands of forces. The Washington Post reported Sunday that up to 10,000 Marines would not meet the service’s deadline to be fully-vaccinated by. That is in addition to nearly 10,000 airmen.

The amicus brief noted that the Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Annual Index of U.S. Military Strength found that the U.S. military is already “only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests” and is trending in the wrong direction. This is happening as China continues to build up its military in hopes of reaching parity or even superiority by 2050, it noted.

“Facing these growing global challenges, the Department of Defense should be doing all it can to maintain its fighting strength. Instead, it is threatening to expel highly trained and effective personnel by forcing them to violate their deeply held religious belief or practice with a hasty order that is both overbroad and violates the standing vaccine implementation order,” the amicus brief said.

“The monetary costs of training replacement personnel to replace those forced out due to this policy will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars,” it added.

AFPI also argued the mandate creates lifelong harm to religious servicemembers by forcing them to accept the “moral injury” of violating their conscience or face the consequences of a negative discharge. The group cited a VA study: “A study that involved a national sample of Veterans found that potential exposure to morally injurious events was associated with increased risk for suicidal ideation and behavior, as well as mental health conditions.”

AFPI wrote, “At a time when servicemember and veteran mental health challenges and suicide are at an all-time high, forcing religious servicemembers to commit an act that violates their religious beliefs or face the lifelong stigma of negative discharges will only increase the likelihood of mental health struggles.”

Lastly, AFPI argued that the mandate is “arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law because it violates the Immunization Program that it is required to follow.” For example, it said the mandate makes no room for those who have already developed antibodies to COVID-19.

“The Immunization Program calls for careful evaluation of the risks to different categories of servicemembers and locations, while the COVID Mandate Order ignores all distinctions,” its brief said.

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