Victory For Religious Freedom: Judge Rebukes Military by Mat Staver for Liberty Counsel
Last Friday evening, Judge Steven Merryday issued a stinging rebuke to the military for violating the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by denying the Religious Accommodation Requests (RAR) of service members. I will share what happened and what comes next for religious freedom for our heroic service members.
Judge Steven Merryday issued a powerful order protecting the first two of our clients, Lt. Col. Mary* and Commander Charles*, both of whom were about to be disciplined by their respective military branches after their religious accommodation requests were denied.
We previously won a temporary injunction protecting these two distinguished service members. On Friday, Judge Merryday extended the injunction for the duration of the case. He will soon rule on our remaining 29 plaintiffs and the entire class of service members.
The judge shredded Biden’s mandate, first by ruling “the defendants fail to articulate why Navy Commander’s and Lieutenant Colonel 2’s sincerely held religious practice must yield to the requirement to accept COVID-19 vaccination.”
The order then goes into one of the best defenses of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act I have ever seen in a court decision.
The religious accommodation request denial letters submitted by members of the various branches in our case showed that the military has been violating RFRA by issuing blanket “rubber stamp” denials using “magic words.”
“A blanket or categorical grant no more satisfies RFRA’s individualized assessment than does a blanket or categorical denial,” wrote the judge.
The judge added that using these blanket denials “illustrates that the military fails to afford an applicant an actual ‘case-by-case assessment’ as required by RFRA.”
“Requiring a service member either to follow a direct order contrary to a sincerely held religious belief or to face immediate processing for separation or other punishment undoubtedly causes irreparable harm,” wrote the court.