The Phoenix Flyer

Amended lawsuit seeks religious accommodation for COVID-vax resisters in Coast Guard

By: - July 28, 2022 6:06 pm

Hurricane Irma disaster relief personnel and 6,000 pounds resupplies are loaded onto Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130H Hercules airplanes on Sept. 12, 2017. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

A legal organization suing to overturn President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for active-duty servicemembers is seeking to revive a claim it filed on behalf of personnel in the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa on June 2 severed a legal class action and ordered separate pleadings for the different branches of the military.

That left Liberty Council, a self-professed “Christian ministry” that litigates on behalf of believers, without any class members from the Coast Guard within the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, meaning the case couldn’t progress there.

However, the organization has found additional plaintiffs who live within the district’s jurisdiction, including two pilots, an avionics technician, and a marine science technician. They hold both officer and enlisted ranks.

“The four proposed new plaintiffs are Coast Guard servicemembers properly venued in this court who just received final denials of their religious accommodation appeals in May, and whose claims are otherwise identical to the Coast Guard claims in the original action,” Liberty Counsel argued in a motion.

All raise the same concern: “[T]hat there are fetal cell lines used in the production and/or testing of all the currently available vaccines which is contrary to his understanding of the sanctity of human life, and that the status of his body as a temple of the Holy Spirit makes it a sin to accept medicines or treatments with unknown long term effects and numerous adverse events documented in only the first 12 months of use,” a separate pleading alleges.

“While there have been many requests, defendants have granted a grand total of 0 (zero) religious exemptions. The United States Coast Guard has received 1,308 requests for religious exemption and has denied every request — all of which after a determination of sincerity. The Coast Guard has denied every appeal from religious exemption denials,” the pleading says.

Similar lawsuits are pending across the country. For example, on July 17 a federal judge in Ohio blocked the Air Force from enforcing the mandate over religious accommodation requests.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.