A federal judge has granted class action status for U.S. Marines in their fight against Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The ruling is another blow to the Biden administration and consistent with other court rulings that have found military branches are violating federal law.
Judge Steven Merryday of the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa Division granted a classwide preliminary injunction for Marines serving in active and reserve duty who were denied religious accommodation requests from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Merryday preliminarily enjoined the Department of Defense from “enforcing against a member of the class any order, requirement, or rule to accept COVID-19 vaccination, … from separating or discharging from the Marine Corps a member of the class who declines COVID-19 vaccination, and … from retaliating against a member of the class for the member’s asserting statutory rights under RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
He defined the class as “all persons on active duty or in the ready reserve (1) who serve under the command of the Marine Corps, (2) who were affirmed by a chaplain as harboring a sincere religious objection, (3) who timely submitted an initial request for a religious accommodation, (4) who were denied the initial request, (5) who timely appealed the denial of the initial request, and (6) who were denied or will be denied after appeal.”