October 4, 2022
ALVARADO v AUSTIN
“Unless we are convicted by Scripture and plain reason – our consciences are captive to the Word of God. We Chaplains will not abandon that authority, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here we chaplains stand. We cannot do otherwise. God help us. Amen”
42 military chaplains, from all services, appeared before Senior District Judge Anthony J. Trenga, to argue for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III’s mandate that every service member be vaccinated with the current COVID-19 so-called vaccine. The right of Americans to follow their conscience is a bedrock principle of the U.S. Constitution, protected by the “no religious test” clause of section VI and the 1st and 5th Amendments.
The Service Members’ case is very simple: their consciences, formed by Scripture and reason based on science, requires that they refuse the Covid 19 mandate; the Service Members requested religious accommodations which, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, should have been granted but instead were universally denied. Three other courts have issued injunctions against the Secretary’s mandate for the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, calling the religious accommodation request process “theater” or a sham because denial is mandated.
The chaplains challenge the legality of the Secretary’s preordained blanket rejections of their religious accommodation requests. The chaplains claim the blanket denial and the vaccine implementation procedures demonstrate the DoD’s hostility to people of faith and seem to be designed to purge and punish people in the Services who believe in following their conscience. The Secretary’s actions have violated the Establishment, Free Exercise, Free Speech, and Due Process Clauses, the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause, and the specific protections Congress provided chaplains in section 533(b) of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Chaplains pointed out that the classical vaccines the military historically required to protect its members were procedures that immunized the recipient; meaning exposure to the disease did not result in the recipient’s infection nor allow its transmission. On September 1, 2021, CDC changed the definition of vaccine from “protection against the disease” to something that “stimulated the immune system”. The reason for this change was to allow for inclusion of the Covid19 so-called vaccines which failed to meet the classic definition as a procedure that immunized the recipient. The chaplains argue this violates what courts call the “major policy doctrine”; rules that affect thousands to millions must be determined by Congress —not minor bureaucrats or political appointees seeking to prevent embarrassment. The Chaplains also pointed out the new definition violates DoD policy.
The Chaplains’ lead attorney, Arthur Schulcz of Chaplains’ Counsel, PLLC, and co-counsel Brandon Johnson of Defending the Republic, presented these arguments to the Court and responded to Judge Trenga’s questions. They greatly appreciated the Court’s interest and attention and await the decision. Links to the documents in the case can be found here.
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