The Supreme Court on Friday issued a partial stay of a lower court's injunction which blocks the Navy from deploying unvaccinated active U.S. military members who refused to get COVID-19 shots.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Smuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the order granting a partial stay.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurrence on why he supported the Pentagon request:
"I concur in the Court's decision to grant the Government's application for a partial stay of the District Court's preliminary injunction for a simple overarching reason: 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. In light of that bedrock constitutional principle, 'courts traditionally have been reluctant to intrude upon the authority of the Executive in military and national security affairs.'"
Alito, writing for the dissent, criticized the Navy for not truly considering the service members' requests but indicated that he was "wary" of the district court's "judicial interference with sensitive military decision making."
"I agree that the Navy has a compelling interest in preventing COVID-19 infection from impairing its ability to carry out its vital responsibilities, as well as a compelling interest in minimizing any serious health risk to Navy personnel," Alito said. "But the Navy's summary rejection of respondents' requests for religious exemptions was by no means the least restrictive means of furthering those interests."
Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute which is representing a group of Navy SEALs, told Fox News Digital: "The Court's narrow partial stay will not deter our mission to ensure America's service members do not lose their religious freedom. As Justice Alito said, this is a 'great injustice.'"
A group of 35 service members, including 26 SEALs, in December went to a federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, arguing that their religious beliefs bar them from being vaccinated against coronavirus.
A judge sided with them in a preliminary injunction, noting that the SEALs had "safely carried out their jobs during the pandemic" and that the Navy could achieve "herd immunity" even if the SEALs remain unvaccinated.
Judges in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the lower court's ruling.
The Biden administration then asked Supreme Court justices to temporarily block the order that they said "usurps the Navy's authority to decide which service members should be deployed to execute some of the military's most sensitive and dangerous missions."
"The Navy has an extraordinarily compelling interest in ensuring that the service members who perform those missions are as physically and medically prepared as possible," read the Biden administration's court filing. "That includes vaccinating them against COVID-19, which is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest."
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