Medical science triumphed and religious privilege was put in its place when the U.S. Supreme Court got it right for a change — at least in part.
After previously sabotaging President Biden’s requirement that large businesses must require employees to be vaccinated, the high court on Friday properly deferred similar decision-making to the military. It agreed that the Navy has the right to refuse to deploy unvaccinated SEALs and personnel who claim religious objections, granting a partial stay on a district court’s injunction. As The New York Times reported, “The Supreme Court has historically been wary of second-guessing military judgments.” (In January, the high court blocked Biden’s mandate for large employers, while allowing his mandate requiring health care workers in facilities to be vaccinated.)
The religious objections of the 35 service members who claimed their religious faith forbade them to get vaccinated against Covid-19 had extreme perspectives. Their claims to be exempted included objections to abortion (with the notion that aborted fetal cell lines were used in development of the vaccine), the “belief that modifying one’s body is an affront to the Creator,” and even that they had received “direct, divine instruction not to receive the vaccine.”
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor comments, “It would have been a true affront to our Constitution — and to common sense — had the Supreme Court required the Navy to place unvaccinated SEALs in submarines.”
After a lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block the order, the Biden administration appealed. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar noted that naval personnel are routinely operating for extended periods of time in confined spaces. She also invoked precedent, beginning with Gen. George Washington ordering the Continental Army to be inoculated against smallpox in 1777. As of 2021, service members have been required to undergo nine separate vaccines.
It’s no surprise that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr. and Neil Gorsuch dissented, but it was a trifle surprising that Justice Brett Kavanaugh voted correctly, supplying his own concurrence.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members and several chapters all across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. Photo by Marc Sitkin via Shutterstock.