Authored by Ryan Morgan via The Epoch Times (Emphasis ours),
In a settlement agreement submitted on Oct. 3, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro agreed to settle the pair of lawsuits—known as U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden and Colonel Financial Management Officer, et al. v. Austin—which challenged the legal basis of the military-wide vaccine mandate.
The two cases were brought by servicemembers from all U.S. military branches, including numerous officers and several members of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. The Navy SEAL plaintiffs initially filed their lawsuit nearly two years ago in October 2021 after President Joe Biden ordered that all U.S. troops and other executive branch employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Military servicemembers have raised numerous objections to the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, including claims that the various military branches routinely rejected requests for religious accommodations to the mandates. Plaintiffs have also raised health concerns over the relatively condensed timeline under which the various COVID-19 vaccines were developed and then granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
While the various COVID-19 vaccines were originally made available to the general public under emergency use authorizations, the FDA eventually granted full approval to the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine version, later marketed as Comirnaty. President Biden introduced the vaccine mandate shortly after the FDA granted full approval for Comirnaty, but the lawsuits argued that the FDA-approved vaccine often wasn’t actually available to servicemembers, meaning that the military vaccine mandate effectively required service members to take versions of the COVID-19 vaccines that didn’t have full FDA approval.
Last year, Republican lawmakers introduced a provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that repealed the military’s vaccine mandate. President Biden ultimately signed the 2022 NDAA into law, despite objecting to the provision reversing his military vaccine mandate.
Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty nonprofit that represented military plaintiffs in the two cases, celebrated the Oct. 3 settlement agreement.
“The military COVID shot mandate is dead,” Liberty Counsel founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement. “Our heroic service members can no longer be forced to take this experimental jab that conflicts with their religious convictions.”
The $1.8 million settlement will be split between the two cases, with $900,000 being paid out for SEAL 1-26 v. Biden and the same amount being paid to the plaintiffs in Colonel Financial Management Officer, et al. v. Austin.
“Through our daily work with service members in every branch, we have had the privilege of knowing some of the finest people who love God and love America,” Mr. Staver said. “These heroes should not have been mistreated by our own government. At the same time, we have come to realize that many of the high-ranking members of leadership, the Pentagon, and the Biden administration need to be replaced. Collectively, they dishonored the brave men and women who defend our freedom. We stand ready to defend our defenders of freedom if any religious discrimination occurs in the future.”
Approximately 8,400 U.S. military servicemembers were involuntarily separated from the military as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The majority of servicemembers received a general discharge, as opposed to a more favorable honorable discharge. Servicemembers separated under a general discharge can be barred from rejoining the military and don’t have full access to educational benefits under the GI Bill.