Two members of the U.S. Air Force stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne are suing the U.S. Defense Department, challenging the constitutionality of its coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Nicholas Miller and Levi Lindskog, both technical sergeants, claim their rights to religious freedom have been violated by enforcement of the mandate and are asking the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne to stop its enforcement for all Air Force personnel who have asked for a religious exemption.
“(The Defense Department’s) actions, as described herein, including but not limited to, the hostility towards religious beliefs, as well as the creation of secular exemptions from its policies, while refusing to accommodate religious exemptions, constitute a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause,” said the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.
The lawsuit stems from President Joe Biden’s executive order issued in September of 2021 ordering all federal employees to obtain the coronavirus vaccine. The Defense Department handed the order down to the armed forces.
According to the lawsuit, Miller and Lindskog both applied for a religious exemption from the requirement, two of more than 3,700 such requests filed by Air Force personnel.
“Astoundingly, the Air Force — at the direction of the (Defense Department) — has approved approximately 13,” the lawsuit said. “At the same time … the Air Force has approved thousands of administrative or medical exemptions to the same requirement.”
According to the lawsuit, Miller and Lindskog both asked for religious exemptions to the mandate because, according to their court filing, Johnson and Johnson used a “fetal cell line” to produce and manufacture its vaccine.
According to a Michigan Department of Health statement filed with the lawsuit, the cells used were grown in a lab using the cells from “two elective pregnancy terminations that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.”
The cells were not used in the production of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but the cells were used in the vary early testing of those vaccines, the statement said.
Both men believe abortion is murder, the lawsuit said, and believe that taking the vaccine would be a sin as a result.
Miller has received several letters of reprimand for his refusal to get the vaccine and now faces discharge from the Air Force after more than 17 years of service.
The lawsuit did not specify if any action has been taken against Lindskog, a 19-year member of the Air Force.
The two challenged the denial of their religious exemption requests and the lawsuit noted that many other members of the Air Force have been granted exemptions for other reasons.
“To be clear and without limitation, the Air Force has accommodated numerous airmen’s requests to be exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for medical or administrative reasons, belying any claim that COVID-19 vaccination is a must for mission accomplishment,” the lawsuit said
The lawsuit accuses the Defense Department of violating the men’s constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion and the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a 1993 law prohibiting the government from placing burdens on a person’s ability to practice their religion.
The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction barring enforcement of the vaccine mandate not only against Miller and Lindskog, but against “others similarly situated” while the court case is being argued.
It also asks the court to declare the Defense Department’s mandate unconstitutional and illegal.