The Biden administration scored a temporary victory last week after the Supreme Court weighed in on an ongoing legal battle regarding the deployment of U.S. troops who happen to be unvaccinated against COVID-19.
According to Fox News, SCOTUS issued a temporary order that gives a green light to the Pentagon to halt deployments of unvaccinated troops, in a case that is still being litigated after a group of 35 U.S. Navy SEALs sued over being blocked from deployments, even as they were exempted from being administered the COVID vaccine.
The legal argument is whether or not the U.S. Navy, in this case, has the power to deny deployments to the unvaccinated.
The last decision in the matter involved a lower court issuing a temporary injunction that blocked the Pentagon from halting the deployment of the unvaccinated.
The SCOTUS ruling last week came with a few surprises, as conservative Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the liberal wing of the high court on the decision.
“In sum, I see no basis in this case for employing the judicial power in a manner that military commanders believe would impair the military of the United States as it defends the American people,” Kavanaugh wrote.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented, with Alito reacting sharply to the ruling in his dissent.
“By rubber stamping the Government’s request for what it calls a ‘partial stay,’ the Court does a great injustice to the 35 respondents—Navy Seals and others in the Naval Special Warfare community—who have volunteered to undertake demanding and hazardous duties to defend our country. These individuals appear to have been treated shabbily by the Navy, and the Court brushes all that aside. I would not do so, and I therefore dissent,” Alito wrote.
As NBC News noted, SCOTUS has historically been deferential to military leadership in cases involving deployment issues.
Lower court battle
The ruling essentially overturned U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s January decision in which he ruled that the Pentagon’s denial of the unvaccinated troops’ deployment was a violation of their religious freedoms.
“The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater. The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial,” Judge O’Connor wrote at the time.
While SCOTUS stepped in on this case, it’s only temporary, as it will ultimately be decided in the lower courts in future arguments.