Nearly 40% of Texas’ 20,000 National Guard members have refused the COVID 19 vaccine in defiance of the mandates handed down from President Joe Biden’s administration.
This comes on the heels of the administration’s requirement that all members of the military get coronavirus vaccines. Texas officials indicated Tuesday that thousands of Guard members are challenging the order “for either religious accommodation needs or otherwise,” according to a lawsuit that was filed Tuesday in a federal court in East Texas.
In addition, more than 200 airmen in the Texas National Guard are also reportedly refusing the vaccine, further challenging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s order to make the vaccine mandatory for the military.
The lawsuit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, follows a similar legal move from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to challenge the vaccine mandate for members of his state’s National Guard. A federal judge denied that motion just last week.
Biden is NOT the commander-in-chief of the Texas Military Dep’t. That’s @GovAbbott’s job.
Biden is once again attempting to use federal power to bully state troops to get a Covid vax. This is wrong—and illegal. And I won’t let it happen.
I’m suing you again, Biden! pic.twitter.com/grZcqCP19Z
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) January 4, 2022
“Neither the President nor federal military officials can order the Governor of Texas and non-federalized National Guardsmen to comply with a vaccination mandate or to direct a particular disciplinary action for failure to comply,” Paxton’s office said in a statement.
“This is one of the many examples of federal overreach by the Biden Administration that my office is adamantly fighting against,” Paxton said. “Now this Administration plans to exacerbate the border crisis by taking out the very people defending Texas—the state that he abandoned and left bearing the costs and consequences of his decisions.”
Amid growing Republican opposition, challenges have been made to the administration’s orders and, on Monday, an injunction was granted by a federal judge in Texas halting the U.S. Navy’s actions against 35 sailors who had refused to comply with the order on religious grounds.
Proponents of the vaccine mandate have labeled opponents as “conspiracy theorists.” Many literally applauded the COVID-related death of Orange County deputy district attorney Kelly Ernby who had opposed vaccine mandates. Her death was subsequently mocked by vaccine supporters on social media.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, her husband had later confirmed that she was unvaccinated.
In November, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had filed a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit challenging the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that had been imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), pointing out that the mandate was unlawful and violated his Executive Order GA-40.
The Governor contends that the mandate violates the 10th Amendment’s assignment of power, noting that the “constitutional structure safeguards our collective liberty.” He viewed the mandate as President Joe Biden’s “unconstitutional power grab.”
Abbott saw Biden’s assertion of “if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” as an empty threat.
In the petition, it was stated that “the Biden Administration (was) bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ continued recovery from the COVID- 19 disaster.”
Texas National Guard & Texas Dept. of Public Safety officers are the first line of defense at the southern border.
While Biden does nothing, we are protecting our communities from the influx of deadly drugs like fentanyl. pic.twitter.com/eOZDWrNzW3
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 5, 2022
The Governor’s staunch stand against vaccine mandates has emboldened armed forces. This week’s lawsuit against the Biden administration includes, but is not limited to, litigation over vaccine mandates for large businesses, federal contractors and health care workers.
Abbott is also holding his ground on COVID-19 vaccinations and related mandates, telling National Guardsmen in his state that they can essentially ignore Pentagon inoculation rules and will not face any retribution for not getting coronavirus vaccines.
“Unless President Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard in accordance with Title 10 of the U.S. Code, he is not your commander-in-chief under our federal or state Constitutions,” Abbott said in a letter to Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard.
“As long as I am your commander-in-chief, I will not tolerate efforts to compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Abbott is joined by six other Republican governors including those from Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska who have asked the Pentagon to exempt their Guardsmen from coronavirus vaccine mandates.
Guardsmen have obligations to both the governors of the states they serve and the president. The confrontation is resulting in a power struggle between states and the Pentagon. The latter has default control of the Guard. However, this has never been fully articulated in courts of military law.
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