Military Blocked From Discharging Marines Over Vaccine By Federal Judge

(FreedomBeacon.com)- Last week, a federal judge in Tampa temporarily halted the discharge of hundreds of US Marines who were denied religious exemptions from the military’s COVID vaccine mandate.

US District Court Judge Steven Merryday ruled on Thursday that the US Marine Corps failed to adhere to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when it denied requests for a religious exemption.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires the government to prove that a compelling governmental interest requires a certain action and that no less restrictive alternatives exist.

Despite many Marines being deemed by a chaplain as holding sincere religious beliefs, the US Marine Corps rejected the vast majority of religious exemptions using boilerplate language without offering compelling reasons to require vaccinating the minority who wanted exemptions.

According to an August 4 update, 95 percent of the Marine Corps have been either fully vaccinated or have received a primary series of the vaccine. By that time, only 11 requests for religious exemption had been approved.

Judge Merryday also ruled a class action for any Marine who has been affirmed by a chaplain as having a sincere religious objection and filed an exemption on time but was denied.

The judge also forbid the US Marine Corps from discharging any member of the class action or from retaliating against them.

The Liberty Counsel, which represented the Marines in this case, lauded the decision.

In a statement after the ruling, Liberty Counsel founder and director Mat Staver said the Marines “finally have relief from these unlawful COVID shot mandates.”

Staver blasted the Department of Defense for “relentlessly” violating the law and ignoring the Marines’ religious freedom, adding “today, that lawlessness ends.”

Thus far, the US Marine Corps has discharged 3,299 Marines for refusing the COVID shots. It is unclear how many of those discharged were denied a religious exemption.

According to the recent update, 3,722 Marines who had sought a religious exemption either had their requests denied or have yet to have their requests adjudicated.