CINCINNATI, Ohio, July 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — U.S. District Court Judge, the Honorable Matthew W. McFarland granted permanent injunctive relief to over 9,000 Air Force class members in the Doster v. Kendall case. Class members consist of active duty, active reserve, reserve members, and national guard members of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, including cadets, appointees, and inductees, who submitted a religious accommodation request to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement and who were denied or are pending a decision.
The Air Force is now prohibited from taking any separation or other punitive action against any class member. Plaintiffs are represented by Aaron Siri, Elizabeth Brehm, and Wendy Cox at Siri & Glimstad LLP, Chris Wiest, Attorney at Law, PLLC and Thomas Bruns at Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong, LLC.
Plaintiffs’ complaint was filed on February 16, 2021 alleging violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by the United States Air Force for systematically denying religious accommodation requests to its mandatory COVID -19 vaccination policy, while simultaneously granting medical and administrative exemptions.
All class members were found by a Chaplain in the Air Force to hold sincere religious belief substantially burdened by the order to be vaccinated. The Air Force nonetheless has systematically denied close to 7,000 requests for religious accommodation, with close to 3,000 still awaiting final decision.
On March 31, U.S. District Court Judge, the Honorable Matthew W. McFarland, initially enjoined Defendants from taking any disciplinary or separation measures against the 18 original Plaintiffs in the case for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine due to their sincerely held religious beliefs and found that Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on the merits. Judge McFarland stated in his initial opinion for a preliminary injunction:
[t]his case presents the constitutional collision of brave men and women serving in the Air Force sincerely trying to exercise their religious beliefs and their esteemed superiors who have loaded their weapons against them.
To date, based on the publicly available information, the Air Force has only granted 135 religious accommodations – all of which were for members at the end of their careers or otherwise eligible for an administrative exemption – while issuing denials to over 6,800 others. Meanwhile, the Air Force has granted over 2,000 medical and administrative accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Case documents relating to this class action, including the class-wide Preliminary Injunction order, are available at: https://www.sirillp.com/airforce/
SOURCE Siri & Glimstad LLP