Military Chaplains Petition Supreme Court To ‘Restore’ Careers

Almost four years after the first COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the United States, a group of military chaplains continues to push back against the federal government for violating their First Amendment rights that led them to refuse to take the mandated shots.

Alvarado v. Austin, a lawsuit filed against the United States Department of Defense (DOD) by nearly 40 military chaplains, was recently petitioned to receive a hearing from the Supreme Court. The request seeks an injunction from the nation’s highest court to force the federal agency to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which rescinded the requirement that members of the military receive the experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The 38 chaplains who signed the petition argue that the DOD is continuing to violate the act despite being required by law to avoid discriminating against military personnel who have religious objections to the shots. According to the petition, even the rescinded mandate act has not served as a road to exemptions for those who do not wish to take the shots. The chaplains are now asking for help from the Supreme Court in “restoring their careers,” which would require the approval of four justices to be heard in the court.

One reason that military chaplains refused the shots is due to the reality that they were tested on cells made from organs of long-since deceased human beings, including preborn babies who were killed via abortion. Capt. Rob Nelson, a chaplain for the Air Force, told The Federalist that this was one of many reasons he refused the COVID-19 vaccines.

Another chaplain for the Army, Col. Brad Lewis, told the same outlet that the role of him and his fellow chaplains is to ensure that “the free exercise of religion is allowed.” Part of their work also includes assisting with religious accommodation requests. While the military has consistently approved various exemptions for religious reasons, Nelson and Lewis and their fellow plaintiffs stated that the military routinely denied religious waiver requests for the COVID shots.

Lewis was one of the 37,000 military members to file for a religious exemption. His request was first delayed, then denied, as were his appeals to the decision. The colonel said that he was told by superiors that he must choose between getting the vaccine or being kicked out of service.

Lewis’ question about whether he would be given a chance to use his training from the War College was repeatedly ignored, he said. The colonel is set to retire from the Army early next year.

Amid arguments from the chaplains, the DOD has denied accusations that it continues to punish servicemembers for refusing the shots, per the legal change in 2023. It also argues that, since the requirement no longer exists, the case holds little legal grounding and is not a “lawful basis” for appealing the decision to remove career punishments already dealt out to military personnel before the change.

The DOD officially rescinded its COVID vaccine mandate in Jan. 2023.

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