A US federal judge has barred the defence department from punishing a group of Navy SEALs and other special forces members who refused COVID-19 vaccines on religious grounds.
District Judge Reed O'Connor, acting in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 35 special forces service members, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the navy and US Defense Department from enforcing the mandate.
"The Navy service members in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect," Reed, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote in a 26-page decision.
Reed said the navy had not granted a single religious exemption to the vaccine rule.
The ruling marks the latest salvo in a string of legal fights over COVID-19 vaccine mandates ordered by President Joe Biden that have proven deeply controversial among conservatives.