- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Members of the Navy, who are part of a class action fighting for a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, say they’ve been separated into “deplorable” living conditions.

One member, whose name was redacted from the court filing for privacy reasons, said the conditions aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have caused the individual to contact “mental health services multiple times.”

“The conditions on the barge are deplorable, much like the USS George Washington, which is anchored in the same shipyard. There is mold everywhere and the barge’s toilets back up and leak. The water leaks out of the base of the toilet and collects near my rack and out into the hall. On bad days, it goes into the berthings on the other side. The leaks seem to be sewage — it smells like sewage and looks like it too,” the individual wrote in a June court filing.

“Needless to say, I do not feel comfortable or safe in this environment.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in November of 2021, challenging the federal government’s order last summer to vaccinate all service members against COVID-19 by the end of the year.

The plaintiffs argue the COVID-19 vaccines were tested on fetal cells, a process that runs afoul of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The case was successful in lower courts, with judges ordering the administration not to take adverse actions against the service members who request religious exemptions.

But the high court, in a 6-3 ruling, in March sided with the Biden administration, saying it could consider vaccination status when making deployments as the litigation plays out in court.

The case is now pending before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the service members requesting that the court hear oral arguments in a brief filed Monday.

“The Navy is fighting to separate from service over 4,000 sailors, including 35 SEALs and Special Warfare operators, simply because those sailors will not compromise their sincere religious beliefs against the COVID-19 vaccination. In doing so, the Navy is fighting a war that the rest of the country knows no longer exists. The COVID-19 virus now is not the same as the virus that circulated in 2020,” they argued.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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