Supreme Court rules against Navy SEALs, allows DOD to restrict deployment based on vax status

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch said they would have denied the Navy's request.

Published: March 25, 2022 6:36pm

Updated: March 25, 2022 7:14pm

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked a lower court's ruling that prevented the Navy from making deployment decisions for Navy SEALs based on their COVID-19 vaccination status.

The ruling clears the way for the Navy to keep SEALs from deployment if they aren't vaccinated. The SEALs had sued challenging the Navy's COVID-19 policies after being denied religious exemptions.

The unsigned ruling did not give the reasoning behind the court's decision. 

But Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion that courts should not second-guess the Pentagon on issues of troop preparations.

“The Navy has an extraordinarily compelling interest in maintaining strategic and operational control over the assignment and deployment of all Special Warfare personnel — including control over decisions about military readiness,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch all said they would have denied the Navy's request.

"The Court does a great injustice to the 35 respondents—Navy Seals and others in the Naval Special Warfare community—who have volunteered to undertake demanding and hazardous duties to defend our country," Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Gorsuch. "These individuals appear to have been treated shabbily by the Navy, and the Court brushes all that aside."

The ruling was on an appeal by the Pentagon to the Supreme Court over U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor's order preventing the Navy from making deployment decisions based on Navy SEALs' COVID vaccination status.

O'Connor gave the order as a result of the Navy's alleged blanket rejection of the SEALs' Religious Accommodation Requests to the vaccine mandate. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block O'Connor's order.

Attorney Davis Younts told Just the News on Friday that the Supreme Court's decision was narrowly tailored to Navy deployment and "doesn't go to heart of the issue of the clear violations of religious freedom."

Referring to Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, Younts added that it was "encouraging that three justices are so concerned that they are willing to limit the Navy's authority in deployment given the level of religious discrimination apparent here."

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