Tampa judge to hear lawsuit brought by military members to stop vaccine mandates

Over the summer, the Biden Administration mandated military members be vaccinated against COVID-19. The mandate did come with medical and religious exemptions, but plaintiffs set to appear before a federal judge Thursday in Tampa say those religious exemptions – thousands of them – are rarely being approved.

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"Defendants are threatening these military heroes with dishonorable discharge for even requesting a religious exemption from the COVID-19 shots," said Mat Staver, founder of a Christian organization called the Liberty Counsel. "The miliary is, across the board, denying these religious exemptions [and] at the same time, granting medical exemptions. That is discrimination."

The organization is representing service members from all five branches, including two Navy SEALs who were recently granted a temporary restraining order by a federal judge.

Their attorneys want the injunction extended and broadened to include the entire military. 

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"I think there's no question this ruling coming Thursday will have an impact on the entire miliary," Staver said. 

The plaintiffs say their religious exemption is based on the idea that aborted fetal cells were used in the making of some vaccines. 

According to UCLA Health, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells. The medical center's website says Johnson & Johnson fetal cell lines when developing and producing its vaccine. UCLA says fetal cell lines are grown in a laboratory and were started with cells from elective abortions that were performed in the 1970s-80s.

UCLA says Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines to test their vaccines and make sure that they work.

Bay Area attorney and legal expert Anthony Rickman says the plaintiff's case maybe an uphill climb. 

"They’re also arguing that, right now, these individual plaintiffs have no damages. They haven’t been kicked out of the military and [their] request is still pending," Rickman said.