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AG Coalition Supports Religious Liberty of Navy SEALs

August 30, 2022

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of the religious liberty of Navy SEALs seeking exemptions from the Federal Government’s pursuit of universal COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The Biden Administration is urging the courts to defer to the executive branch regarding the vaccine mandate, even if it overrides constitutional, fundamental religious freedoms. The coalition argues that states have successfully balanced freedoms and sensitive state interests during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Americans should be skeptical of the Biden Administration’s claims of broad legal authority. As they state in their brief:

“Deference to military authorities makes sense when those authorities’ judgments reflect trustworthy, non-political assessments of sensitive matters within their unique expertise. But policymakers can, through their actions, erode those assumptions and the deference that might otherwise be due.

“This Court should discount the Administration’s claim to deference in this case. In the past year, courts have recognized the overreaching and flawed claims of legal authority underlying the Administration’s response to the pandemic, the tension between its policies and the facts, and its inconsistent statements and actions that undercut its claims of good faith. These recurring features of the Administration’s response undermine its claim to deference here.”

The case has previously reached the Supreme Court of the United States. On an emergency motion, the Biden Administration asked the Court to partially stay an injunction against the vaccine mandate for the SEALs. The Supreme Court only allowed the requirements to remain if the mandates affected assignments, deployments, or operational decisions. The case now continues in the Fifth Circuit.

The brief is led by Mississippi and signed on to by Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming in U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden, which can be found here.