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Supreme Court sides with Pentagon over Navy SEAL vaccine mandate

The Supreme Court's order on Friday was granted pending the decision of the Biden administration's appeal of the case. File photo courtesy the U.S. Navy
The Supreme Court's order on Friday was granted pending the decision of the Biden administration's appeal of the case. File photo courtesy the U.S. Navy

March 25 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling siding with the Pentagon over its mandate blocking unvaccinated Navy SEALs from deployment.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin petitioned the court for an emergency partial stay to restore the Pentagon's ability to change assignments for military personnel based on their refusal to be vaccinated after it had been blocked from doing so in January.

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A federal judge in Texas had issued an injunction in January blocking the Pentagon from making assignment changes for a group of Navy SEALs that filed lawsuits against the administration of President Joe Biden claiming the U.S. Navy violated their religious freedom with COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of Texas also prevented the Defense Department from enforcing its vaccine mandate on the Navy SEALs and others who sued over the mandate, though Austin did not seek for the Supreme Court to stay that part of the order.

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The Supreme Court's order on Friday was granted pending the decision of the Biden administration's appeal of the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which denied a request from Austin for a stay of the lower judge's order in February.

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The justices did not give reasoning for their decision, which was opposed by Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. However, Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate concurring opinion which provided some insight into why the Supreme Court reached its decision on the stay.

"Under Article II of the Constitution, the president of the United States, not any federal judge, is the commander in chief of the armed forces," Kavanaugh wrote.

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"In this case, the district court, while no doubt well-intentioned, in effect inserted itself into the Navy's chain of command, overriding military commanders' professional military judgments."

Alito, in his separate dissent joined by Gorsuch, said the Supreme Court was "rubberstamping" which "does a great injustice" to the 35 members of Naval Special Warfare community.

"These individuals appear to have been treated shabbily by the Navy, and the court brushes all that aside," Alito wrote. "I would not do so, and I therefore dissent."

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