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Air Drive officers sue over COVID-19 vaccine spiritual exemption denials

A gaggle of Air Drive officers is suing the service in an Ohio federal courtroom after being denied spiritual exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit, which names Air Drive Secretary Frank Kendall as a defendant, alleges that the service employs a double commonplace when approving exemption requests that favors medical and administrative exemptions. 

The plaintiffs are asking the courtroom to declare the mandate unconstitutional, and bar the Air Drive from taking “enforcement/punitive motion” towards them whereas the case is underway.

“The Division of the Air Drive has didn’t approve all however a small handful of non secular lodging requests, and people requests, upon data and perception, are for airmen who’re near the terminal finish of their service,” reads the criticism. 

“Whereas on the similar time, the Division of the Air Drive has accepted 1000’s of administrative or medical exemptions to the identical necessities,” it continues.

An Air Drive spokesperson informed The Hill that the service is conscious of the filings, however doesn’t touch upon pending litigation.  

The lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 16, got here a day after a federal choose in Georgia blocked the Air Drive from booting a service member who had spiritual objections to the vaccine.

Energetic-duty service members had till Nov. 2 to be vaccinated, whereas Air Nationwide Guard and Reservists got till Dec. 31.

The Air Drive first mentioned on Feb. 8 that it granted 9 service members spiritual exemptions from the vaccine mandate. In accordance with knowledge launched Tuesday, the service has accepted 13 spiritual exemptions from the vaccine requirement.

The plaintiffs, which embody a bunch of officers and reservists, all say they spoke with a navy chaplain to confirm the sincerity of their beliefs, however they have been nonetheless denied.

A few of them additionally say that they had pure immunity from earlier infections with COVID-19. 

“The granting of multiple thousand medical and administrative exemptions belies any assertion that vaccination is mission-critical and that no exemptions will be granted,” reads the criticism.

Throughout the navy, the companies obtain 1000’s of requests for spiritual exemptions however have solely accepted a small quantity.

The Marine Corps which was the primary service grant spiritual exemptions to the mandate in mid-January, disclosed on Thursday that it has granted six out of over 3,600 requests it has acquired.

The Navy has additionally mentioned it conditionally granted one spiritual lodging for a member of its Particular person Prepared Reserve, however that particular person should be vaccinated earlier than returning to energetic service.

The Military has but to grant any spiritual lodging.

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