Plaintiffs U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26, U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen (SWCC) 1-5, U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD) 1, and U.S. Navy Divers 1-3, by and through counsel, and for their Complaint against the Defendants, hereby state as follows:
- Plaintiffs are each assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command units. Plaintiffs ar
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, and U.S. Navy Divers who each object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.
- This action is based upon the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, Department of Defense regulations, and Department of the Navy regulations, concerning the denial of Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to the free exercise of religion and protection from agency action that is unlawful, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious.
- Plaintiffs challenge the policies and actions detailed below on their face and as applied to Plaintiffs.
- Defendants’ policies and actions deprived and will continue to deprive Plaintiffs of their paramount rights and guarantees under the United States Constitution and federal law.
- Defendants committed each and every act alleged herein under the color of law and authority.
- e U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen, a U.S. Navy
Plaintiffs are United States Navy “SEALs,” Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen, a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, and Navy Divers.
- Plaintiffs U.S. Navy SEALs 1–26 are enlisted service members and chief warrant officers of the United States Navy assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command. The Navy selected U.S. Navy SEALs 1–26 to participate in the SEALs program, and these individuals each completed the rigorous training required to become a Navy SEAL.
- Plaintiffs U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen 1–5 are enlisted service members of the United States Navy assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command.
- Plaintiff U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1 is an enlisted service member of the United States Navy assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command.
- Plaintiffs U.S. Navy Divers 1–3 are enlisted service members of the United States Navy assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command.
Defendant Joseph R. Biden, Jr., is President of the United States of America and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. U.S. Const. art. II, § 2. On or about July 29, 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Defense to vaccinate all service members, including Plaintiffs. President Biden is sued in his official capacity.
- Defendant Lloyd J. Austin, III, is the United States Secretary of Defense. Secretary Austin issued a memorandum on August 24, 2021, which requires the United States Armed Forces to vaccinate all service members, including Plaintiffs. Secretary Austin is sued in his individual and official capacities.
- Defendant United States Department of Defense (DoD) is an executive branch department that coordinates and supervises all agencies and functions of the government related to the United States Armed Forces, including the vaccination policies at issue herein.
- Defendant Carlos Del Toro is the United States Secretary of the Navy. Secretary Del Toro issued a directive on August 30, 2021, which required the U.S. Navy to vaccinate all U.S. Navy service members, including Plaintiffs. Secretary Del Toro is sued in his individual and official capacities.
Plaintiffs have spent years in training, at tremendous personal cost and sacrifice, to attain the status they have achieved and to serve their country as part of its most elite forces. Because of their extensive and highly specialized training, the cost of training Plaintiffs may exceed $1 million for each servicemember.
- On October 13, 2021, the Navy disclosed that “[t]o date, over 98 percent of active duty U.S. Navy service members have met their readiness responsibility by completing or initiating a COVID-19 vaccination series.” NAVADMIN 225/21 Covid-19 Consolidated Disposition Authority, dated October 13, 2021.
- On information and belief, the Navy has not publicly disclosed what proportion of its reserve force has been fully vaccinated.
- A Navy spokesperson recently admitted that “
” This disdain for religious vaccine accommodations contrasts with Defendants’ grant of certain secular vaccine exemptions. The spokesperson admitted that the Navy has granted “five permanent medical exemptions.” Kristina Wong, Exclusive: Marine Corps Commanders Using Form Letter to Deny Religious Exemptions,
Multiple Plaintiffs, having learned that other medications may be tested or produced using aborted fetal cell lines, have since committed to refusing to take any medication that is thus developed or tested.
- Multiple Plaintiffs hold to the sincere religious belief that the human body is God’s temple, and that they must not take anything into their bodies that God has forbidden or that would alter the functions of their body such as by inducing the production of a spike protein in a manner not designed by God.
- Plaintiffs are among the United States’ most elite military personnel. In order to earn the title Navy SEAL, SWCC, EOD or Diver, they must successfully complete some of the most demanding qualification course that exist within the U.S. Armed Forces. Their physical and mental conditioning is beyond question.
- In accordance with their sincerely held religious belief, multiple Plaintiffs carefully monitor what they take into their bodies, and they are compelled to avoid anything that adversely alters or may modify their bodies’ natural functions in a manner not designed by God.
- The COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA technology, which causes human cells to produce a spike protein they would not normally produce. See Centers for Disease Control, “Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines,” http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/ vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html (Mar. 4, 2021).
- The COVID-19 vaccine has resulted in a statistically significant number of serious adverse reactions, including myocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscles, and pericarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart tissue. See Patricia Kime, DoD Confirms: Rare Heart Inflammation Cases Linked to COVID-19 Vaccines, Military.com (June 30, 2021), https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/06/30/dod-confirms-rare-heart-inflammation-cases- linked-covid-19-vaccines.html.
- U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Theresa Long, M.D., M.P.H., F.S., submitted a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, as a whistleblower under the Military Whistleblower
Multiple Plaintiffs received a formal “COVID-19 Vaccination Administrative Couseling/Warning” that states, “[P]er MANMED 15-105, special operations (SO) duty personnel (SEAL and SWCC) who refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine based solely on personal or religious beliefs will be disqualified from SO duty (unless the disqualification is separately waived by BUMED). This will affect deployment and special pays. This provision does not pertain to medical contraindications or allergies to vaccine administration.The medical-disqualification provision of Defendants’ Trident Order #12 substantially burdens Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs by rendering Plaintiffs “medically disqualified,” i.e., non-deployable, even if they were to receive a religious accommodation. This threat of non-deployability substantially pressures Plaintiffs to take an action (receiving a COVID- 19 vaccine) that would violate their religious beliefs.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter judgment against Defendants and provide Plaintiffs with the following relief:
(A) A declaratory judgment that Defendants’ vaccination policies challenged in this Complaint violate Plaintiffs’ rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;
(B) A declaratory judgment that Defendants’ vaccination policies challenged in this Complaint violate Plaintiffs’ rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act;
(C) A declaratory judgment that Defendants’ vaccination policies challenged in this Complaint violate Plaintiffs’ rights under the Administrative Procedure Act;
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(D) A preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the Defendants, their agents, officials, servants, employees, and any other persons acting on their behalf from enforcing the vaccination policies challenged in this Complaint;
(E) An order declaring unlawful and setting aside Defendants’ vaccination policies;
(F) Actual damages, under Tanzin v. Tanvir, 141 S. Ct. 486 (2020), in the amount of pay Plaintiffs will lose as a result of Defendants’ discriminatory vaccine policies
under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act;
(G) Nominal damages against Defendants in their individual capacities, under Tanzin
v. Tanvir, 141 S. Ct. 486 (2020), for the violation of Plaintiffs’ rights under the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act;
(H) Plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and other costs and disbursements in
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and
(I) All other further relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled.
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