In a rare move, A Federal Judge in Texas has granted a preliminary injunction that effectively stops all adverse actions against service members who have requested medical or religious waivers from receiving the COVID vaccine. This injunction prevents the Pentagon from taking any further action to discharge or file charges against any service member who has applied for a waiver or had one refused.
In a blistering opinion, Judge Reed O’Conner, a Bush appointee in the Northern District of Texas stated that the Pentagon’s waiver process appeared to be intentionally designed to refuse all requests for waivers, pointing to the fact that to date, the Navy has not granted a single waiver of religious accommodation and spoke of a waiver process that appears to be rigged against granting any waivers.
On A Case By Case Basis, A Predetermined Denial Of Waivers
The Navy’s process for considering religious waivers which it says is on a “case by case basis” is comprised of fifty distinct steps, but the very first fifteen steps in the process are the preparation of a letter of denial. For all practical purposes, the process of denying the waiver begins the instant the service member applies for one. Only at step thirty-five is the actual request for the waiver read by an administrator, after the denial has been reviewed and signed all the way up to Vice Admiral Nowell, the Chief of Naval Personnel. According to the injunction, nowhere in that fifty-step process is an administrator permitted to recommend granting the waiver, they are all processed from the very beginning in the default position of denying the request. The court also noted that this process of denying religious accommodation from the beginning of the waiver process has resulted in the Navy not granting a single religious-based waiver in the last seven years.
In August 2021, the Department of Defense imposed a vaccine mandate that required all service members to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The Navy in turn issued its own mandate requiring full vaccination of its personnel by November 28, 2021, under threat of facing the “full range” of disciplinary actions under its authority.