A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on Monday blocking the Defense Department from taking action against a group of 35 Navy sailors who had refused to get a coronavirus vaccine, raising questions on how it might shape the Pentagon's requirement that all U.S. troops get vaccinated.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor found that the pandemic "provides the government with no license to abrogate" the freedoms that any American has, and that the service members had a right to avoid getting a vaccination on religious grounds.
"This Court does not make light of COVID-19′s impact on the military. Collectively, our armed forces have lost over 80 lives to COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic," O'Connor wrote Monday in a 26-page order.
But the judge added that the "loss of religious liberties outweighs any forthcoming harm to the Navy" and that "even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights."
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday night that defense officials were aware of the injunction and reviewing it.