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Rep. Darrell Issa endorses lawsuit against military's vaccine mandate
Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-50) has announced his support of a federal lawsuit seeking to create a religious exemption for the military's mandatory vaccination policy. Courtesy photo/The Coast News graphic
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Rep. Darrell Issa endorses lawsuit against military’s vaccine mandate

REGION — Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-50) has come out in support of a lawsuit against the federal government that seeks to create a religious exemption for vaccination mandates in the armed forces.

Issa, a Republican representing California’s 50th Congressional District spanning much of northeastern San Diego and parts of Riverside County, issued a press release on Dec. 20 stating that he was joining 37 other Republicans in the House of Representatives and eight members of the Senate in filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

The litigation itself was filed in November on behalf of 35 active-duty Navy service members asking federal officials to create an exemption in President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate for members of the military that would allow those with conflicting religious beliefs to opt-out of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

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The current lack of such an exemption infringes upon the religious liberties of service members, hurts U.S. national security, and does not serve the interest of public health, Issa said in his office’s press release.

“We will fight every day for the men and women who fight for us — even if it is one service member at a time,” the release states. “I am proud to join my colleagues in directly communicating to this court that these members of the Navy have constitutional rights that no one — not even President Biden — can take away.”

Issa also wrote an op-ed in Fox News on Dec. 15, arguing that the vaccination mandate will “decimate our military” and result in the potential dismissal of up to 50,000 service members who have refused to be vaccinated so far.

“President Biden is threatening to discharge every member of the military who expresses a religious exemption or nothing more than a cautionary reluctance to immediately obey his sweeping vaccine mandate,” Issa wrote. “This would be as unnecessary as it is unjustified.”

In August, the Pentagon announced that it would be requiring all members of the military to be vaccinated, with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel having until November 14 to receive the vaccine. The Army gave soldiers until December 15 to get vaccinated.

However, in November, the lawsuit against the mandate was filed by the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based non-profit law firm, on behalf of the 35 Navy service members. The suit names President Biden along with several other Pentagon officials as defendants and asks a federal court in Texas to issue a preliminary injunction that would declare the mandate unlawful and prevent the government from enforcing it.

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In the amicus brief filed in support of the suit, 46 members of Congress argue the mandate infringes upon protections of religion established in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, as well as in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that was signed into federal law in 1993 and prohibits any substantial burden of an individual’s right to exercise their religion.

Additionally, because the mandate’s enforcement would mean the dismissal of non-compliant service members, the vaccine requirement actually undermines national security, the brief argues.

“If the mandate stands…it will be more difficult for our military to recruit highly qualified individuals of faith to serve our country—a consequence that is wholly unnecessary, damaging to our military’s morale, and damaging to our national security,” the brief reads.

These arguments were reaffirmed in a statement released by Issa’s communications director Jonathan Wilcox, who called the government’s vaccine requirement “destabilizing” and a “betrayal” of service members.

“The Biden White House’s handling of the coronavirus has been a series of contradictions, inconsistencies and credibility shattering errors, and its vaccine mandates are a serious and destabilizing mistake for Constitutional, procedural, statutory, and common sense reasons,” Wilcox said. “The military mandate stands to decimate our active-duty fighting force and continues this Administration’s serial betrayal of our men and women in uniform. These mandates need to stop now.”

Issa, who served in the Army himself and achieved the rank of captain before pursuing a career in politics, is vaccinated himself and strongly believes in the efficacy of vaccines, which he said “have helped millions of Americans — myself included.”

However, the congressman has stressed that he does not believe that everyone needs the vaccine, as he claims that those who have already recovered from COVID-19 have natural antibodies that provide immunity against the virus.

In October, Issa introduced legislation into Congress that would allow for a federal exemption from vaccination mandates for those with demonstrated natural immunity, according to the Times of San Diego.

Having already contracted the virus does not protect people from COVID-19 as well as the vaccine, according to the Center for Disease Control, as an infected person can contract the coronavirus multiple times. A study cited by the federal agency asserts that someone with a past case of COVID-19 is twice as likely to avoid reinfection as compared to someone with a past case of the virus who does not get vaccinated.

Vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe illness and death caused by the virus even with the onset of new variants, and the CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated regardless of age group or supposed natural immunity.

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