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A great victory
Congratulations to our brave soldiers and Attorney Aaron Siri
The opening paragraph:
The Army has a valid interest in vaccinating its soldiers, and it has made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. But its soldiers have a right to religious freedom, which in this case includes a sincere religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine. Which side must yield? The answer lies in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which applies to the military: The Army must accommodate religious freedom unless it can prove that the vaccine mandate furthers a compelling interest in the least restrictive means.
Our first commander in chief cautioned that “[w]hile we are Contending for our own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others.” Letter from George Washington to Colonel Benedict Arnold (Sept. 14, 1775), in THE PAPERS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, 1 REVOLUTIONARY WAR SERIES 455–56 (1985). … Our Constitution “obligates Congress, upon creating an Army, to make religion available to soldiers” because the Army must not “deprive the soldier of his right under the Establishment Clause not to have religion inhibited and of his right under the Free Exercise Clause to practice his freely chosen religion.” Id. at 234. Here, the Army does not dispute this history or its ongoing obligation to accommodate its soldiers’ religious freedom, including compliance with RFRA. But it has failed to prove that its ongoing imposition of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which indisputably burdens some soldiers’ sincerely held religious beliefs, serves a compelling interest through the least restrictive means available. As a result, the Army must retreat from imposing its mandate in this particular field and permit religious exemptions to these plaintiffs.
The decision is here.