Apr 18, 2022 - Health

Supreme Court rules against Air Force officer who refused COVID vaccine

Photo of the front of the Supreme Court building with a pink cherry bloom tree in the foreground
The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Pentagon can take disciplinary action against a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve who refused to follow the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate due to religious objections.

The big picture: Jonathan Dunn had said he sought emergency relief to protect himself from "further punishment, including a discharge." He was removed from his command after he refused the vaccine, believing it violates his faith.

  • Elizabeth B. Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general, wrote in response to Dunn's application that "the Air Force has a compelling interest in requiring applicant to be as medically and physically prepared for deployment with his reserve unit as possible, particularly because his unit is designed to be deployable worldwide with just 72 hours’ notice."
  • The unsigned order did not provide the court's reasoning but noted that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented with the decision to deny the application for an injunction.

Worth noting: The Supreme Court's ruling follows last month's decision, which said the Navy can consider vaccination status when determining deployments or assignments for SEALS and other special operations personnel.

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