Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Alaska has joined 20 other states in an amicus brief challenging the U.S. Air Force for violating the constitutional and statutory rights of airmen when it refused religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Department of Defense began implementing mandatory vaccines to combat the spread of the virus among service members.
In Sept. 2021, the Secretary of the Air Force enacted a branch-specific vaccine mandate that allowed only medical, administrative, and religious exemptions.
“Service members do not surrender the right to practice their religion when they enlist or are commissioned,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor. “Sweeping mandates, put in place after a service member takes an oath to defend our freedoms, should not be granted higher authority than that service member’s own freedoms.”
The brief argues that the Air Force violated both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause when it denied religious exemptions to 18 airmen.
Each of the airmen submitted written responses with a chaplain’s confirmation seeking exemptions and were denied exemptions and face disciplinary action as a result.
“An airman may sacrifice much in serving his country,” the brief states. “That should not include his right to religious liberty. And indeed, it doesn’t.”