Judge grants preliminary injunction from COVID vax mandate for Marines denied religious exemptions

Judge found evidence shows Marine Corps likely had "a systemic failure" in following the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Updated: August 19, 2022 - 9:57am

A federal judge late Thursday granted a preliminary injunction against the Marine Corps' COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members who were denied Religious Accommodation Requests.

Judge Steven Merryday, of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, granted the class action relief in a case that includes 15 Marines who have sued the Defense Department over its denial of their exemption  requests regarding the COVID vaccine mandate.

In a 48-page decision, Merrday pointed out that while 3,733 Marines requested RARs regarding the vaccine mandate, only 11 have been granted. And those who were granted the requests were already "due for retirement and prompt separation," Merryday wrote. 

The judge also found that, according to the evidence, the Marine Corps likely had "a systemic failure" in following the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with regard to the broad denial of the requests.

Merryday previously granted a preliminary injunction in the case Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin. 

Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom legal advocacy nonprofit that is representing the Marines in the case, announced the decision on Friday.

"Our courageous U.S. Marines finally have relief from these unlawful COVID shot mandates," Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said Friday in announcing the ruling. "The Biden administration and the Department of Defense are not above the law. These brave service members have been abused and mistreated because of their faith."