During his interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday, President Joe Biden made a number of statements the White House had to immediately walk back (a near-daily requirement of Biden’s staff), one of which was the president’s assertion that the COVID pandemic is “over.”
Biden told interviewer Scott Pelley, “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s – but the pandemic is over.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did in fact release new guidance (yet again) in August that recognized natural immunity, eliminated testing and quarantine requirements, and acknowledged that social distancing has failed to control the COVID virus. In addition, the agency suddenly determined at the time that vaccinated people are no better protected from the virus than unvaccinated people.
“CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection, ” the CDC said.
The guidance, coupled with Biden’s statement that the COVID pandemic is no more has led many to justifiably wonder why the Armed Forces are, in many cases, still discriminating against unvaxxed service members.
Currently, there is an ongoing class action lawsuit in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of more than 10,000 unvaccinated active duty, reserve, and National Guard Air Force and Space Force members who submitted a religious exemption but were either denied or are still awaiting a decision from the Pentagon.
But in at least a temporary victory, the 6th Court earlier in September ordered the Air Force to stop “disciplinary or separation measures” as the case proceeds.
“The Department of the Air Force is complying with the court order to pause all disciplinary and adverse actions for those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine who submitted a timely religious accommodation request,” a spokesperson for the Air Force told Fox News Digital. “This includes the Air Force Reserve Command processing Airmen to the Individual Ready Reserve.”
Attorneys in the case joined “Fox and Friends First” last week to discuss the case, which has since taken a turn for the worse.
(Video: Fox News)
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argue that although an injunction is in place, the Air Force is acting on language that stems from a Supreme Court ruling in a similar case concerning Navy SEALs who refused vaccination.
The March decision by the Court determined that the U.S. military can use broad discretion to make “deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions,” which would include vaccination status.
As such, the Air Force is ignoring the injunction and continues to ground pilots and/or reassign them to other duties.
“The Air Force continues to prevent its members with religious objections to taking the vaccine from performing many of their regular duties. The best example is that pilots who are unvaccinated for religious reasons have been grounded while pilots who are unvaccinated for medical reasons are flying,” said Danielle Runyan, a plaintiff and member of the Air Force Reserve and counsel for First Liberty Institute.
“This will eventually lead to thousands of Airmen losing their careers because they will eventually be unable to promote to the next grade. There is nothing operational about these decisions, especially in light of the president announcing that the pandemic is over. In fact, this is grave threat to our national security that should alarm every American,” she argued.
One T-6 instructor pilot named Andy Grieb told the outlet he was grounded and reassigned to instructing pilots in a simulator only. He cited a deeply held religious belief but was denied not once, but twice on appeal. He described the Air Force’s review process as “archaic and disorganized.”
Not only that, it’s inconsistent.
“Unvaccinated individuals that have a medical exemption are continuing to fly, whereas the ones that, like myself, have requested religious accommodation when it was denied, we are not allowed to fly,” he said.
“The Air Force is losing out on a valuable resource, which is the instructors that are not teaching right now or doing their mission. In addition to that, we have to maintain our qualifications in the Air Force in order for a career to progress. So the flying duties are the qualification,” Grieb explained.
Retired Air Force brigadier general and U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) told Fox News Digital he’s encountered multiple servicemembers who are experiencing the same arbitrary discrimination.
“I’ve been in direct contact with many service members over the last year – including many from Nebraska – who have legitimate concerns about the way the Pentagon has handled the processing and disposition of their requests for religious and medical exemptions,” said Bacon.
“Orders are orders, and I received every vaccine known to man when I served in uniform, but maybe it’s time to reassess this particular order. Based on the president’s recent statements on the pandemic, I’m personally not convinced we’ve struck the right balance between military risk and the Constitution. We need to consider the serious recruiting and retention problems now facing the military, and review actions taken against those who did not get the vaccine,” Bacon concluded.
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