Attorneys for United States Navy Special Operations Designated Personnel who filed a lawsuit on behalf of service members deemed “undeployable” for seeking an exemption to COVID-19 vaccination for religious reasons have learned that the Navy quietly withdrew the vaccination order at the command level in May.
“A communication order was circulated by the Navy on May 23 with the subject “NSWC CLOSEOUT TO TRIDENT ORDER #12 – MANDATORY VACCINATION FOR COVID-19,” Fox News reported.
Trident Order #12 said “Special Operations Designated Personnel (SEAL and SWCC) refusing to receive recommended vaccines based solely on personal or religious beliefs will still be medically disqualified” from training, traveling for deployment and other Naval business, but those exempted for medical reasons remained active and deployable.
“It is not immediately clear whether the Navy replaced the order with any other document or the reasoning behind Trident Order #12’s termination,” Fox News reported.
“The rescission of Trident Order # 12 does not appear to affect the applicability of Navy or DoD-wide vaccine policies to [Naval Special Warfare] personnel—it just appears to remove the command-level direction,” the SEALs attorney Heather Gebelin Hacker said in a filing with the Fifth Circuit clerk.
In November of 2021, First Liberty Institute filed suit on behalf of dozens of SEALs claiming the military infringed on service members’ First Amendment rights and used intimidation to force them into getting COVID-19 vaccinations.
All 35 soldiers represented in the filing were members of various denominations of the Christian faith, according to the filing.
Directives at that time promised “severe punishment, including criminal court martial prosecution, revocation of special operator status, drastic pay cuts and a ban on travel for SEALs who do not comply by the end of November 2021,” Fox News reported.
The lawsuit cited examples of SEALs who were told they would have to give up their “Trident,” or special operator status, if they sought exemption, forcing them back into regular sailor ranks despite years of training and hard work.
According to Hacker, the SEALs’ legal team only became aware of the change to Trident Order #12 on September 1, months after the problematic order was rolled back.
“The lawsuit representing unvaccinated SEALs has since been amended to extend to a class action lawsuit encompassing all Navy service members seeking religious accommodation,” according to Fox News.
Admiral William Lescher, who issued the original order, told the Supreme Court in a sworn statement that unvaccinated SEALs will cause “immediate harm to the Navy,” but later admitted he was “unaware” of any Navy SEAL combat missions negatively affected by the virus.
“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 religious beliefs,” said First Liberty Senior Counsel and Director of Military affairs Mike Berry. “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.”
A spokesperson for the Navy said he could not comment due to ongoing litigation.
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