Sources are coming forward to claim that a growing number of U.S. Navy SEALS who are seeking a religious exemption to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate are being hit with intimidation and threats in attempts to make them submit to getting the shot.
Michael Berry, First Liberty Institute’s general counsel, and Lt. Col. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is representing 34 Navy SEALS and two reservists in their quests to get these exemptions. He told Fox News that the Navy’s new vaccine mandate is illegal and infringes upon an individual’s First Amendment freedoms.
“Purging our military of its elite servicemembers is detrimental to national security. Doing so because the Commander in Chief refuses to accommodate their religious convictions is abhorrent to the Constitution. Their years of experience and leadership in service to our nation is immeasurable and irreplaceable,” Berry said. “Remove a SEAL from special warfare, reduce his salary, and force him to repay his training is purely vindictive and punitive. And it’s illegal. They have nothing to do with a virus.”
Berry went on to say that the clients he is representing have a combined more than 350 years of military service and more than 100 combat deployments.
This comes after the Navy’s COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority (CCDA) issued a new directive on Thursday stating that if SEALs refuse to get the vaccine, the Navy may seek to recover from each individual SEAL the money the government has spent on training them. Training just one individual SEAL can cost millions of dollars.
Another internal document states that as special operations (SO) duty personnel, SEALS who refuse to get vaccinated based only on religious or personal beliefs will be “disqualified” from SO duty. This means that a SEAL who seeks a religious objection would lose their “special warfare” pay due to SO status.
The Navy has set November 14 as the deadline for active-duty sailors to get either their second shot of a two-dose vaccine or the single shot of a one-dose vaccine, with reservists having until December 14.
One source came forward to claim that when one SEAL informed his commander that he was planning to seek a religious exemption, the officer fired back by saying that he would have to give up his Special Warfare pin, also known as a “Trident.” SEALS who are stripped of the privilege of wearing a Trident are removed from the SEAL community completely and sent back to be a regular sailor, despite, in some cases, years of work to earn special operator status.
First, Liberty is planning to file a complaint on behalf of the SEALS using pseudonyms and concealing locations in order to protect the identities of the service members who are afraid of retaliation from the Navy leadership.
“SEALs have invested their lives into serving this nation, dedicating years of their lives and millions of taxpayer dollars in training to be the most elite fighting force on the face of the earth,” said Berry. “Yet, the Commander in Chief would simply kick them out of the Navy, send them to jail, and force them to repay the nation for their training—all for simply declining a vaccine.”