(FiveNation.com)- The US Navy is blaming a federal judge in Florida for its decision not to deploy a warship under the command of an officer seeking a religious exemption to the Navy’s COVID vaccine mandate.
Last month, Judge Steven Merryday granted a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Defense from taking punitive action against two plaintiffs in Navy Seal 1 v. Austin over their refusal to get the COVID vaccine on religious grounds, a warship commander and a Marine lieutenant colonel.
The Department of Defense immediately sought a stay on the judge’s ruling, arguing that the Navy “lost confidence” in the commander’s “ability to lead and will not deploy the warship with him in command.” The DoD argued that the commander previously disregarded Navy regulations when he “exposed dozens of his crew to COVID-19” after refusing to get tested despite having symptoms.
The commander, who was eventually ordered to undergo a COVID test and tested positive, said he told his supervisors that he discussed his illness with the ship’s corpsman.
In its filing, the DoD claimed the judge’s decision to keep a commander in place whom they claim “lost the trust of his superior officers and the Navy at large” has effectively placed “a multi-billion-dollar guided-missile destroyer out of commission.”
The Liberty Counsel, who is representing the commander, responded in its filing by noting that before the availability of the COVID vaccines, the commander’s ship was underway for 300 of the 400 days during the pandemic. The filing argues that any injury to the Navy from not deploying the commander’s ship “is self-inflicted and intentional.”
On March 2, Judge Merryday denied the DoD’s request for a stay, blasting the Pentagon for claiming his ruling would create “the frightening prospect of a dire national emergency.”
Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel told the Navy Times last week that at the same time the Navy was filing a motion claiming it lost confidence in the commander, the commander in question was on board his ship for testing and training exercises and only returned to base on March 4.