A U.S. Navy warship has been left unable to deploy due to its commanding officer refusing the COVID vaccine on the grounds of religious objection. The news comes as ongoing legal battles have seen service members unite in lawsuits against the US government’s vaccine mandates.
Despite a recent ruling from a federal judge that the unnamed commanding officer cannot be removed from his post after rejecting COVID-19 vaccines under religious exemption, Navy officials still refuse to deploy the ship.
The preliminary injunction issued last month from Judge Steven D. Merryday prohibited the Navy and Marine Corps from performing disciplinary action against the unnamed commander, alongside his Lieutenant Colonel (who also filed against having the vaccine for religious exemptions), from being required to take the vaccine to continue working. The case has “raised questions about the lines between military good order and discipline, and the legal rights of servicemembers as American citizens” according to the Navy Times.
This is not the first time the military has come under fire for vaccine mandates. Last month the US Army announced it would “immediately begin separating soldiers from the service who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Regarding unvaccinated soldiers, the Army further stated that those who had wished for medical exemption or religious-based modifications would be “temporarily exempt” from the vaccination requirement while their requests are under review.
It has been alleged that the commander in question has already caused COVID-related regulation issues. The February 28th Florida filing contends that the commander had previously disregarded Navy procedures after he turned up to work ill, exposing “dozens” of the crew to COVID. Amidst the ongoing legal battle, it has been disputed that a commanding officer cannot lead a 320-sailor crew if he fails to abide by orders himself, but the commander and fellow unvaccinated workers have remained firm on their choices to not vaccinate warranted by their 1st Amendment rights.
GOP candidate for Nevada Governor Joey Gilbert wrote to his Twitter followers this week, “According to the Navy, a U.S. destroyer can’t deploy because the commanding officer refuses to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Our country cares more about your vaccine status than our national security.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz remarked: “Biden’s illegal vaccine mandates now actively undermining U.S. national security.
While legal battles continue, there have been 469 separations for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the Navy, 4,593 active component and 3,241 ready-reserve service members remain unvaccinated. So far only 12 permanent medical exemptions have been handed out to active-duty members; with a further 212 being granted temporary medical exemptions. Religious exemption requests for the COVID-19 vaccine remain yet to be approved.