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Sixth Circuit Rules in Favor of Religious Liberty of 18 Airmen, Prevents Air Force From Disciplining Unvaccinated Service Members

Mandate likely violates the airmen’s religious liberty rights


FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 1, 2022) – The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of 18 airmen who are seeking a religious exemption from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The ruling prevents the Air Force from disciplining the airmen for acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.

"Three months ago, my office filed a brief in federal court supporting the religious liberty of airmen who sought a religious exemption to the Air Force's COVID-19 vaccine mandate; this week, the court ruled in their favor," said Attorney General Cameron.  "This decision is significant because it protects the airmen from discipline or termination for exercising their sincerely held beliefs and upholds the fundamental right to religious liberty enshrined in our laws."

In September, Attorney General Cameron led 21 states in filing an amicus brief, urging the Sixth Circuit to protect the religious liberty rights of military service members. The Sixth Circuit agreed with Attorney General Cameron’s arguments, finding that the Air Force’s vaccine mandate likely violates the airmen’s religious liberty rights provided under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The court’s ruling notes that while the Air Force technically offers a religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, it “has granted zero religious exemptions to anyone who does not plan to leave the service within a year.”

The Sixth Circuit also explains that the Air Force issued “a direct military order commanding” the airmen to “act against their faiths” and points out that the Air Force’s arguments, in this case, reveal “a lack of sensitivity to the foundational rights at stake.”

To view the court’s ruling, click here. To see a copy of the amicus brief led by Attorney General Cameron in support of the airmen, click here.

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