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Opinion: Elite warriors seek religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine

Considered the best and most highly trained elite special fighting force in the U.S. and having sacrificed in every major war fought in modern time, the Navy SEALs have earned the respect of every American.

Their rigorous training regimen has inspired a number of memorable quotes, including: “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat” and “The only easy day was yesterday.”

Jocko Willink epitomizes those ideals of being a SEAL. He was the commander of Task Force Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006. Under Willink’s command were other famous Navy SEALs, including Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor, current astronaut Jonny Kim, and Chris Kyle, whose bravery and military skills as a sniper are legendary.

Since leaving the Navy in 2010, Willink has remained active in service to the nation. He co-authored the leadership manual, “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” and also started the leadership training program Echelon Front and began The Jocko Podcast.

When a veteran of his caliber speaks out, we listen.

After the Biden administration’s terrible bungling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this year, Willink posted a message to the president on social media because he “felt that nobody was making any statements taking ownership of the situation that was happening” in Afghanistan, including the Americans that were left stranded after the collapse of the nation.

Willink also posted a brief video in which he imagined he was the U.S. commander in chief and addressed how he would deal with the situation in Kabul which, in real world, disintegrated into chaos and catastrophe and embarrassed America on the world stage.

In our real world time, Americans are still waiting for President Biden or ranking members of the military to step to assume responsibility and brief us on the status of those Americans and loyal Afghan allies who were left behind during the evacuation debacle.

The administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is also a sensitive issue with many Americans, including members of the Navy SEALs. Last week, First Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of dozens of SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel against the Biden administration and the Department of Defense for their refusal to grant religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The SEALs represented are all members of various denominations within the Christian faith and are objecting to the vaccine mandate based on “their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

When they inquired about seeking religious exemptions for the vaccine, the Navy informed many of the plaintiffs that they could face court-martial or involuntary separation if they don’t receive the vaccine. Some were also warned that if they sought a religious exemption, the Navy would confiscate their Special Warfare devices such as the famous SEAL “Trident” that they wear on their uniforms.

“The fact that the government has not granted a single religious exemption from the vaccine mandate shows that the Biden administration does not care about religious freedom. Instead, this appears to be an attempted ideological purge. Forcing a service member to choose between their faith and serving their country is abhorrent to the Constitution and America’s values,” said Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute in the complaint. “After all these elite warriors have done to defend our freedoms, the Navy is now threatening their careers, families and finances. It’s appalling and it has to stop before any more harm is done to our national security.”

The SEALs “sincerely held religious beliefs forbid each of them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for a variety of reasons based upon their Christian faith as revealed through the Holy Bible and prayerful discernment,” the suit states. “Plaintiffs believe that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that was tested, developed or produced using aborted fetal cell lines would force them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by causing them to participate in the abortion enterprise, which they believe to be immoral and highly offensive to God.”

The Navy is requiring active-duty forces to be fully immunized by Nov. 28, though sailors needed to receive the final shot of a two-dose vaccine or a single dose vaccination by Nov. 14 because it requires two weeks to be considered vaccinated.

The plaintiffs and millions of conservatives are hoping the judge will agree that the service members’ rights were violated under the First Amendment, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and issue a preliminary and permanent injunction barring the military from enforcing the vaccination policy on them.

Quoting the Navy SEAL oath seems appropriate in this case: “I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.