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Judge denies Airmen’s injunction to stop vaccination requirement on religious grounds

An update now on a lawsuit filed by three dozen active-duty airmen.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 4:48 PM CDT
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BELLEVUE, Neb. (WOWT) - Saying a lawsuit isn’t likely to succeed, a judge on Wednesday denied the preliminary injunction filed by 36 U.S. Airmen challenging the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Air Force servicemembers.

The March filing by three dozen members of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard claimed religious objections, specifically noting that the science used to develop COVID-19 vaccines was based on decades-old research “derived from aborted fetal cell tissue.”

But U.S. District Judge Brian C. Buescher said in the order issued Wednesday that the argument no longer holds any significance as many religious groups have since deemed that line of objection as outdated. Even religious leaders including the Pope, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the Dalai Lama are encouraging the vaccine.

“Certain major religions of the world have long strenuously objected to the use of such research in medicine. However, having lost that battle in significant regard over the decades, many of those same religions have concluded that the remote impact of what they deem to be religiously or ethically objectionable research utilized for the vaccines does not support refusal to take the vaccines on religious grounds today,” the injunction states.

The judge also notes that the public interest aspect of vaccination also works against the argument to halt the requirement.

“Specifically, the Air Force’s interest in preventing COVID-19 from impairing the readiness and health of its forces, including individual service members like Plaintiffs, is in the public interest,” the document states. “...There can be no serious dispute that the available COVID-19 vaccines have dramatically reduced the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States and the world. Further, the data available illustrates that those who have refused to get vaccinated have necessarily had a greater chance to get and spread the virus. Indeed, science shows that those who are unvaccinated have had a dramatically higher likelihood of serious illness or death.”

Because the lawsuit isn’t likely to succeed, the injunction was denied, the memo states.

The vaccine mandate for military personnel was put in place in August, with a vaccination deadline of Sept. 15. In December, the Air Force announced it had discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the judge’s memo on the injunction

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