On Aug. 31, 2022, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares added his name to an Amicus brief in a lawsuit urging the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel.1
The lawsuit was filed by 35 Navy personnel requesting religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. A temporary stay was issued by the District Court of the Northern District of Texas Fort Worth blocking the Navy from declaring that the Navy Seals, who filed for a religious exemption to COVID vaccination, are non-deployable and disqualified from Special Operations and can be disciplined and discharged from service.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the temporary injunction, but the U.S. Supreme Court partially reversed the decision in April 2022. The Supreme Court ruling allows the Navy to consider the vaccination status of Seals when making deployment assignment and other operational decisions while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals further considers the Navy’s position that military personnel filing a religious vaccine exemption should be subject to discipline and discharge from the service.2
In a press release, Miyares pointed out that a mere 47 of the 4,298 Navy service members who submitted a religious exemption have been approved.3 Meanwhile, data from the Department of Defense (DoD) shows that there were only 17 deaths and 1 hospitalization out of the 105,277 cases of COVID in the Navy.4
The Attorney General wrote:
The Biden Administration has continually disrespected boundaries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, undermining individual liberty and forcing Americans to obey dictates from unelected Washington bureaucrats. Navy SEALs are some of our best and brightest, willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our freedoms. Those who have filed religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine deserve to be heard and taken seriously.5
In this case, the Biden administration wants the court to grant the military deference in an attempt to have military service personnel comply with the COVID vaccination mandate, even if measures taken to ensure compliance erodes personal freedoms. Twenty-two Attorneys General collectively have signed the amicus brief arguing that states have successfully balanced state interests and fundamental freedom during the COVID pandemic and the Biden administration’s demand for deference to the military’s vaccine mandate should be met with skepticism.
The 22-state coalition of Attorneys General opposing the military’s COVID vaccine mandate by filing the amicus brief include Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.6
Attorney General Committed to Protecting Virginians’ Freedoms
This is not the first time the Virginia Attorney General has been outspoken about his opposition of vaccine mandates. Just two weeks after he took office, Attorney General Miyares issued a legal opinion finding that Virginia state universities, “cannot require the COVID-19 vaccine as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance.”7
The Virginia Attorney General has made it clear that unless or until the General Assembly takes affirmative action to add COVID shots to the vaccine requirements for public school students, the controversial shots could not be required for students to attend Virginia public schools of higher education. He said:
Although the General Assembly specifically authorized public institutions of higher education to assist the Department of Health and local health departments in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, the legislation did not grant such institutions power to impose vaccine requirements.8
Miyares maintained his pro-vaccine choice stand when he stood with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and announced that they would join in the challenge against the Biden administration’s COVID vaccine mandate. They said they plan to, “quickly move to protect Virginians’ freedoms.”9
Their joint statement read:
While we believe that the vaccine is a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the Federal government cannot impose its will and restrict the freedoms of Americans and that Virginia is at its best when her people are allowed to make the best decisions for their families or businesses.
Last year, they both signed onto cases before the Supreme Court opposing the COVID vaccine mandates for large employers and health care workers, pointing out that the mandates would “force hardworking Virginians to walk away from their paychecks.”
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Click here to view References:
1 Cordes J. Miyares: Military’s authority should be curbed when it comes to vaccines. ABC 8 News Aug. 31, 2022.
2 Hendler C. U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Case on Religious Vaccine Exemptions for Deployment of Navy Seals. The Vaccine Reaction Apr. 18, 2022.
3 Cordes J. Miyares: Military’s authority should be curbed when it comes to vaccines. ABC 8 News Aug. 31, 2022.
4 Attorney General Of Virginia. Attorney General Miyares Joins Coalition of States Supporting Religious Exemptions of Navy SEALs.
6 Owens C. W.Va., Va. joins 22-state coalition challenging Biden’s military vaccine mandate. Bluefield Daily Telegraph Aug. 31, 22.
7 Reese B. AG Miyares: Virginia colleges can’t mandate COVID-19 vaccine for students. 10WAVY Jan. 28, 2022.
9 Rankin S. Virginia to Join Vaccine Mandate Challenges, Youngkin, Miyares Say. NBC Washington Jan. 7, 2022.