Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Air Force From Expelling Unvaxxed Service Members, Enforcing Vax Mandate

A Trump-appointed federal judge issued a temporary pause on dismissing members of the U.S. Air Force over their refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland ordered the Air Force to stop terminating service members who claim religious exemption from vaccine requirements. The temporary pause will last 14 days.

“We are pleased by the judge’s decision protecting the constitutional rights of service members who have dedicated their lives to protecting our constitutional rights,” attorney Chris Wiest said. “We will continue to litigate this case to its conclusion and look forward to continuing this battle with the federal government.”

“The local lawsuit, which started with just under 100 plaintiffs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, now impacts thousands of Air Force personnel worldwide,” Fox News reported. “In March, the Supreme Court temporarily granted the Pentagon’s request to limit the deployment of unvaccinated active U.S. military members who refused to get COVID shots based on religious grounds.”

Fox News reported:

First Liberty Institute and law firm Schaerr Jaffe LLP filed a separate lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Air Force last month on behalf of Air Force members who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus — about 2%.

Plaintiffs allege that the Department of Defense is violating the First Amendment rights of its service members by imposing a vaccine mandate that “substantially burdens” free exercise of religion, despite granting hundreds of administrative and medical exemptions. In addition, the lawsuit argues that the government does not have a compelling interest and has not provided service members other less restrictive manners in which to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, a Los Angeles judge struck down L.A. Unified’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate, ruling that the school district “exceeded its authority” and that “the power to require children to be vaccinated to attend school lies with the state.”

“The ruling, however, has no immediate effect within the L.A. Unified School District, because the district in May postponed its mandate until at least July 2023 — a move that aligned with the state decision to pause its own school vaccine requirement until then. LAUSD was the first of the nation’s largest school systems to institute a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students, and despite the delay, school board members were resolute in defending it against lawsuits,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff’s ruling represented a significant win for “Let Them Breathe,” a California-based group that has opposed mask and vaccine mandates.

“Judge Beckloff’s ruling confirms that individual school districts do not have the authority to impose local vaccination requirements in excess of statewide requirements,” said Arie L. Spangler, a member of the legal team that pursued the case. “We are very pleased with the ruling, as it ensures that no child will be forced out of the classroom due to their COVID-19 vaccination status.”

However, the ruling did not address the issue of employee vaccine mandates. The district’s enforcement of that requirement remains in effect.

“Beckloff wrote he had earlier thought that the school district’s student vaccine resolution fell short of a mandate because it affected only the manner of instruction and not the content. Unvaccinated students would have been transferred to online instruction under the policy. But in his ruling, Beckloff said the evidence presented persuaded him otherwise,” the LA Times reported. “The judge cited the example of D.F., a student who would have been forced to move from a magnet program that specialized in science to an online study program.”

“Thus, while the Resolution is a campus community health and safety measure, it also dictates who may be enrolled and continue to attend particular schools within the district,” the judge wrote in his nine-page decision.

“If D.F. remains unvaccinated, he will be required to leave his current school with its curriculum and programs to be enrolled in a new school within the district … where it appears his curriculum would be very different than at his current school. Thus, the Resolution is not merely about how education is delivered or who may be physically present on campus as the court previously viewed it. Instead, the Resolution dictates which school the student may attend, and the curriculum he may continue to receive.”

Reporting from Conservative Brief.