The Freedom From Religion Foundation hails a recent Supreme Court ruling and castigates a President Trump-appointed judge’s action — both related to the pandemic.
The nation’s highest court ruled that the Pentagon can discipline an Air Force officer who refused, because of religious objections, to be vaccinated against Covid-19. (The usual trio — Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — dissented without comment Monday.) In doing so, the Supreme Court is in accord with its ruling last month that upheld the right of the Navy to refuse to deploy 35 service members with extreme religion-based objections to being vaccinated. Monday's action by the high court was an interim measure, which denies the religious officer relief while the appeal proceeds.
U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar rightly asserted that being vaccinated is an “essential component of military readiness and is critical to protecting the health and safety of service members.” Prelogar pointed out, as she did in the earlier case, that the precedent for requiring military inoculations began as early as 1777, when George Washington ordered it to fight smallpox. The Defense Department has added the coronavirus vaccine to its list of nine total vaccines now required for service members. FFRF is pleased to report that 98 percent of Air Force members are vaccinated, according to the department.
“Reason and science have prevailed this week with this action by the high court,” notes Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
FFRF is criticizing a related development in which a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the federal requirement mandating masks for all public transportation, including planes and buses. That ruling came from U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who became at 33 the youngest Trump appointee to a federal bench (following his presidential election loss). The American Bar Association deemed her unqualified due to lack of experience, but she was confirmed on a party-line vote.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed the mask travel mandate in February 2021 at President Biden’s request and had a few days ago extended the travel mandate till May 3. The ruling denied the right of the CDC to issue regulations preventing the interstate spread of communicable diseases, which is a serious blow. This is part and parcel of the concerning trend, often by Trump-appointed judges, to revoke the necessary rule-making authority of the federal government. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when the nation is seeing an uptick in cases of new Covid-19 variants — with possibly serious repercussions.
“We’ve gone from a time when it was an unquestioned part of being a good neighbor and citizen to be vaccinated in the midst of epidemics and pandemics, to the reality today — when partisan hacks and conspiracists belittle the science of vaccination and herd immunity measures,” Gaylor adds.
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.