WASHINGTON D.C. – Following months of back-and-forth legal wrangling, the U.S. Navy has quietly begun to rescind the punishments it has been doling out to SEALs seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations after an the deadline for all special forces to do so was passed in October 2021.
“Trident Order #12,” initially issued by the U.S. Navy on September 24, 2021 by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Lescher, and stated that SEALs who refused the jab would no long be eligible to train, travel to be deployed, or carry out any of their other duties indefinitely.
“Special Operations Designated Personnel (SEAL and SWCC) refusing to receive recommended vaccines based solely on personal or religious beliefs will still be medically disqualified,” Trident Order #12 said.
However, after a group of 35 SEALs and three reservists who had sought religious exemptions to the vaccination mandate filed a lawsuit in early 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction, putting Trident Order #12 on hold temporarily.
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But several months after the injunction was issued, the Navy had begun the process of rescinding Trident Order #12 starting on May 23, according to a communication order by Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) included in a new court filing this week.
“NSWC CLOSEOUT TO TRIDENT ORDER #12 – MANDATORY VACCINATION FOR COVID-19. This order rescinds reference A,” the order said, with “Ref A” referring to “Trident Order #12 on COVID-19 Vaccinations.”
Despite no longer keeping unvaccinated SEALs from active duty, the Navy noted in the order that it will continue to follow official guidance in regards to COVID-19 safety protocols and guidance “as appropriate.”
It is currently unknown why the Navy rolled back punishments for SEALs who have not been inoculated – or why it was done quietly – with a spokesperson telling Fox News that “The Navy does not comment on ongoing litigation.” However, reports say that the attorneys representing the SEALs in the lawsuit were only informed of the change in punishment policy on September 1, several months after it was ended.
However, according to Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry of the First Liberty Institute – the legal team representing the SEALs – the lawsuit has since been amended to include all Navy personnel who have been seeking religious exemptions from vaccination.
“Now that the Navy has rescinded this unlawful order, the only reason it won’t allow our SEALs to get back to doing their jobs is because of their religious beliefs.” He said. “America faces many national security threats, and the Navy is suffering a historic recruiting crisis. There’s no good reason to keep these trained and experienced warriors from serving.”