U.S. District Judge Matthew McFarland sided with the servicemen and women in his 14-page ruling on Wednesday, stating that the government failed to “raise any persuasive arguments for why the Court should not extend the Preliminary Injunction issued on March 31, 2022, to cover the Class Members.”
The ruling relaces a 14-day temporary restraining order that allowed the military time to make its case explaining why the preliminary injunction shouldn’t last longer and shouldn’t expand to the 10,000 or more service members seeking an exemption.
The government lawyers had previously argued that not punishing the unvaccinated members would interfere with other legal action and, in light of new developments, wouldn’t be proper.
Primarily, the religious exemptions focused on the included fetal-derived cells or mRNA technology. But, according to the lawyers, they were bogus since the Johnson and Johnson and Novavax vaccines do not use mRNA technology.
“Those class members whose religious objections were based on mRNA technology or the use of fetal-derived cell lines are no longer substantially burdened by the COVID-19 vaccine requirement because this option is now available,” lawyers said.
Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, director of staff for the Air Force headquarters, gave written testimony claiming unvaccinated members “are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and substantially more likely to develop severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death.” Schneider continued that exempting a large number of service members would ultimately cause “unprecedented risk to military readiness” and the “ability to defend the nation.”
He provided Air Force Service member COVID-19 cases – 91,984 with 229 hospitalizations, of which 14 died,” Schneider said. “Of those who died, 12 (86%) were completely unvaccinated.”
The 12 unvaccinated were 86% of the 14 who died. However, the 14 who died are 0.015220038267% of the 91,984 who survived and 6.11% of those hospitalized.
The Epoch Times noted that Schneider did not provide the number of service members injured or hospitalized due to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine under the military’s vaccine mandate.
McFarland wasn’t convinced. He instead modified the class to include all active-duty, active reserve, reserve, national guard, inductees and appointees of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets, members of the Air Force Reserve Command and any airman who has sworn or affirmed the U.S. Uniformed Services Oath of Office or Enlistment and is currently under command and could be deployed.
If a service member submitted an exemption request on or after Sept. 1, 2021, under the new order, the Air Force cannot take disciplinary action against them or attempt to kick members out.
Members confirmed as having a sincerely held religious belief by chaplains and those who either had their request denied or whose request had not yet been acted on came under the umbrella of the new order.
“Obviously, we are thrilled for our clients who we were facing career-ending consequences for the exercise of their sincerely held beliefs,” Chris Wiest, an attorney for plaintiffs, said Wednesday.
“This case will now proceed into the discovery phase in which we look forward to placing government decision-makers under oath and questioning them about their discriminatory decision-making.”