U.S. Judge Stops Punishment of Airmen Who Filed Religious Exemption from COVID Vax Mandate: Read Injunction

Aaron Siri’s firm obtains national preliminary injunction prohibiting penalizing airmen for refusing COVID-19 vaccine.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Aaron Siri, the Managing Partner of Siri & Glimstad, announced on Twitter Wednesday that Judge Matthew W. McFarland of the Southern District of Ohio had granted a preliminary injunction against the Air Force, Space Force, and Air National Guard from punishing airmen who filed for a religious exemption to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
  • The Air Force is now “restrained from taking any adverse action against any Class Member on the basis of this lawsuit or his request for religious accommodation from the COVID19 vaccine,” the injunction reads.
  • A press release from Siri & Glimstad obtained by American Faith indicated the injunction would provide relief for over 9,000 Air Force class members.
  • The new rule applies to the following military groups, according to the injunction: “All active-duty, active reserve, reserve, national guard, inductees, and appointees of the United States Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Cadets, Members of the Air Force Reserve Command, and any Airman who has sworn or affirmed the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office or Enlistment and is currently under command and could be deployed, who: (i) submitted a religious accommodation request to the Air Force from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement, where the request was submitted or was pending, from September 1, 2021 to the present; (ii) were confirmed as having had a sincerely held religious belief substantially burdened by the Air Force’s COVID19 vaccination requirement by or through Air Force Chaplains; and (iii) either had their requested accommodation denied or have not had action on that request. Excluded from this definition shall be any person within the above class who: (i) opts out, by delivering notice to the Government and Class Counsel in writing of their election to opt out, by electronic mail addresses to be filed with Court.”
  • Judge McFarland said that the Air Force had failed to make any “persuasive arguments” against extending an existing injunction issued on March 31 of this year. “The Court finds Defendants’ arguments not well taken,” wrote McFarland.
  • “Thus, due to the systematic nature of what the Court views as violations of Airmen’s constitutional rights to practice their religion as they please, the Court is well within its bounds to extend the existing preliminary injunction to all Class Members,” McFarland added.
  • Aaron Siri’s law firm represented the plaintiffs in the case Doster v. Kendall, No. 1:22-cv-84 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
SIRI’S STATEMENT:

“Proud to announce our firm, along with @ChrisWiest11 and Tom Bruns, just obtained a national preliminary injunction prohibiting the air force, space force, and air national guard from penalizing service members that refused a C19 V for religious reasons,” Siri tweeted.

READ THE INJUNCTION:
BACKGROUND:
  • Judge McFarland’s order comes almost two weeks after he ordered a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Air Force worldwide from enforcing the COVID vaccine mandate on any servicemembers who requested religious exemptions.
  • The order stopped the Air Force from discharging or disciplining servicemembers for 14 days.
  • So far, the Air Force has only granted 135 religious accommodations, though all of the exemptions were for members at the end of their careers or otherwise eligible for an administrative exemption, the Siri & Glimstad press release notes.
  • More than 6,800 others were denied.
  • Case documents relating to this case are available here.