Navy Mandate Capsizes in Court

January 4, 2022

Joe Biden ran on a platform of shutting down the virus. Twelve months in, he's shutting down freedom instead. Fortunately for Americans who care about things like liberty and personal choice, the courts for the first time in a long time are defending the constitution -- (thanks to the judges put in place by the Trump administration). In a string of smackdowns to the Left's COVID overreach, the Biden administration is on thinner ice than the drivers on I-95. And with a federal scoreboard of 10 court rulings to the president's zero, there's no sign it's slowing down.

The announcements are coming in a steady stream now, as judges all across the country weigh in on the president's vaccine mandates. One by one they spell a sinking ship for the administration, who hoped it could strong-arm employers and millions of other Americans into making health decisions against their will. In the latest good news from Texas, a federal judge gave fresh hope to 35 of the Navy's SEALs, agreeing that discharging them over their vaccine objections -- without honestly considering a religious accommodation -- was a gross violation of their rights.

In one of the most appalling testimonies, one SEAL was told that even if his accommodation was granted (something that hadn't been done by the Navy in the last seven years), he would still be expected to turn in his trident. In fact, the branch's track record is so bad that Judge Reed O'Connor called the entire 50-step sham process on religious exemptions "theater." "The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory," he wrote. "It merely rubber stamps each denial."

Our good friends at First Liberty Institute represented the three dozen SEALs and reported that several of their plaintiffs were told that leadership "had no patience or tolerance" for religious accommodation and "wants them out of the SEAL community." This whole case, O'Connor ruled, "confirms those fears."

"Under standard operating procedure for the process," the judge went on, "the 15 steps require an administrator to upload a prepared disapproval template with the requester's name and rank. In essence, the plaintiffs' requests are denied the moment they begin."

The mandates aren't faring any better where civilians are concerned, as rulings on mandates for Head Start and other federal programs take a separate blow. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R), who has pushed back on a number of fronts, wasn't at all surprised that the administration's "toddler mandate" took a hit. "It not only requires everybody that comes anywhere close to the Head Start program to be vaccinated, but it requires all kids aged two and older to wear a mask any time that they're being transported to a premises that's associated with Head Start." Fortunately, he explained, the district court issued its opinion over the weekend halting the insanity. "Of particular note to me," Yost said, is that "they not only found that the department did not have the legal authority from Congress to issue this mandate, but they went on to say that it's a violation of a 10th amendment."

And the picture doesn't get any rosier for the OSHA rules, which will have their day at the Supreme Court this Friday. In an emergency special session, the justices will be asked to decide what the definition of a mandate is -- and whether Biden's policies qualify. Right now, Washington Times reporter Haris Alic explains, the president is arguing that "it's not really a mandate," because he knows that OSHA has no congressionally mandated power to impose one.

"The reason why the Supreme Court is taking this action right now," Alic said on "Washington Watch" "... is primarily because this mandate has created this limbo for businesses and for private workers everywhere, where essentially, if you work in one state, you need to have a vaccination or you could be fired -- whereas in another state you could be fined depending on whether or not the government chooses to enforce it."

It has nothing to do with whether the vaccine is good or bad. It's about the power being exercised by the federal government. Almost every lawsuit, Yost says, "is about whether a president can essentially write a law." "This regulation... breaks new ground, establishes new duties. It doesn't just set the rules for how Congress's law is going to be carried out -- and we think [that's] way overstepping its overreach. And courts across the country have been agreeing with us."