On Thursday morning, a federal court in the Southern District of Ohio issued a short-term restraining order preventing the Air Force from enforcing its vaccine requirement against any airman who had submitted a request for religious accommodation, according to court papers.
A move to continue a court order from March that prohibited the Air Force from separating or disciplining plaintiffs who are fighting the requirement on religious grounds was granted by Judge Matthew W. McFarland.
A temporary restraining order, which is an emergency measure to keep the status quo for up to fourteen days while the court considers issuing a preliminary injunction, would last through the duration of the lawsuit process if the judge determines that the requirement is unlawful. The TRO will be converted to a PI at the conclusion of that period, effectively safeguarding all of these military members while Biden appeals the ruling in the Sixth Circuit appellate court.
The court approved the plaintiffs’ request for “class treatment” for all airmen who submitted religious accommodation requests on Thursday.
Because the plaintiffs have completed the necessary Rule 23 criteria, the following class will be certified:
“All the active-duty and active reserve members of the U.S. Space Force and Air Force, that includes but is not limited to Air Force Academy Cadets, Members of the Air Force Reserve Command, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets, and any Airman who has affirmed or sworn the U.S. Uniformed Services Oath of Office and is at this time under the command and may be deployed, who: (i) submitted a religious accommodation request to the Air Force from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, where the request was submitted or was pending, from September 1, 2021, to the present; (ii) were confirmed as having had a genuine held religious belief by or through Air Force Chaplains; and (iii) either their requested accommodation was denied or have not had action on that request.”
The district court additionally ruled that “Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 21) is GRANTED.”
The court has instructed the Air Force to submit a supplemental brief no more than ten pages long and no later than July 21, 2022, explaining why an overall preliminary injunction should not be granted.