Federal Court Halts Air Force COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate


Thursday, July 14th 2022, 4:58 pm
By: News 9


A federal court in Ohio entered a nationwide temporary restraining order on July 14, that prevents the United States Air Force from enforcing its military COVID-19 vaccine mandate when there is a request for a religious exemption involved. The order prohibiting the enforcement applies in any situation in which a service member has submitted a religious accommodation request that has either been denied or not yet acted upon. Thomas More Society attorneys are pleased with this development as it directly affects a lawsuit in which they represent several members of the Air Force.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio entered the order banning the enforcement of the vaccine mandate in Doster v. Kendall. The order is valid for fourteen days, during which time the court will consider a preliminary injunction, which would extend the ban, protecting religious objectors up until a trial is held.

In a similar case, Air Force Officer v. Austin, in Georgia, Thomas More Society attorneys won the first preliminary injunction in the nation against the Air Force vaccine mandate on behalf of a single Air Force officer. The Thomas More Society is now representing three additional representative Air Force service members and is seeking class action certification for a nationwide injunction against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The motions for class certification and for a nationwide preliminary injunction have been fully briefed and await a ruling from the court.

“This is a huge victory for our country and religious freedom,” said Stephen Crampton, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel, about the order issued in Doster v. Kendall. Crampton is one of the attorneys representing the Airmen in the Air Force Officer case in Georgia.

“Not only does this decision protect the plaintiffs in the Doster case, but it also protects the fundamental First Amendment rights of Air Force service members all over the nation, including those in the Space Force, Air Force Academy Cadets, and those in the Reserves.”

“This order could not have come at a better time,” added Adam Hochschild, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, serving as lead counsel in Air Force Officer v. Austin. Hochschild explained that, “The government has recently ordered imminent punitive action against those men and women of faith who cannot in good conscience take these experimental vaccines, and this order stops the government in its tracks.” 

Judge Matthew McFarland noted in the federal court order out of Ohio that, “The facts show Defendants [the Air Force] have engaged in a pattern of denying religious accommodation requests.”

The Air Force has granted approximately one percent of all the religious accommodation requests submitted, and virtually all of those are for airmen leaving the Air Force. The court stated that this class includes over 12,000 Air Force members. The court found that class certification was proper because these Air Force members all seek relief under both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, they all suffer from the government’s “overt policy to deny virtually all religious accommodation requests,” and they all face a risk of incompatible conclusions if they were forced to litigate each claim separately in different jurisdictions.

“The court has correctly certified the class in Doster and rightly enjoined the Air Force mandate,” stated Crampton. “It is gratifying to see the courts uphold their constitutional duty to ensure other branches of the government do not run roughshod over fundamental rights, as the Air Force has been doing here.”