Congressman Mike Johnson Commends Federal Court Ruling that the Department of Defense Cannot Punish Service Members Seeking Religious Exemptions from Vaccine Mandate

Congressional Republicans filed an amicus brief in support of Navy service members seeking religious accommodations


WASHINGTON, January 4, 2022 — United States Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) commended the ruling issued Monday evening by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that the Department of Defense cannot punish military service members seeking religious exemptions from the Department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In December, 38 House Republicans led by Congressman Johnson along with 9 Senate Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) filed an Amicus Brief before the Court in support of 35 Navy service members seeking religious accommodations.

“This is a very important victory and a reminder that when Americans’ First Amendment freedoms are threatened, the right thing to do is to fight back,” Johnson said. “I applaud the Court for defending the religious freedom rights of our military service members.”

In the brief, the members wrote: “The very first clause of the very First Amendment explicitly states that ‘Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion. This amendment, case law, and Congress’s decision to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act all testify to the fact that, without entrenched, generally applicable, and judicially enforceable protections for religious liberty, lawmakers and government bureaucrats are susceptible to override sincere religious beliefs in favor of what they mistakenly see as the greater good. That is what is happening with Defendants’ vaccine mandate.”

The brief continues: “Plaintiffs’ religious liberty and the government’s asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.”

The brief concludes: “Indeed, the impact on the military and our national security strongly counsels in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. The mandate is sidelining the deployment of soldiers on whose service our country relies. If this mandate (as currently being applied or threatened) is not enjoined, these Plaintiffs cannot fulfill their pledge to serve and defend our country, even though, based upon their training and experience, these Plaintiffs, as well as others similarly situated, are some of our most qualified, equipped, and fearless soldiers… Now they ask this Court to protect their religious freedom from encroachment by the very government they have sworn to protect with their lives.

“If the mandate stands, it is likely, then, that 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 plaintiffs sued the Department of Defense over the Department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in federal court claiming that the mandate infringes upon their religious freedom rights.

Representatives Rick Allen (GA), Brian Babin (TX), Jack Bergman (MI), Andy Biggs (AZ), Dan Bishop (NC), Mo Brooks (AL), Lauren Boebert (CO), Kat Cammack (FL), Andrew Clyde (GA), Warren Davidson (OH), Rodney Davis (IL), Jeff Duncan (SC), Bob Gibbs (OH), Louie Gohmert (TX), Bob Good (VA), Paul Gosar (AZ), Michael Guest (MS), Andy Harris (MD), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Jody Hice (GA), Clay Higgins (LA), Darrell Issa (CA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Doug Lamborn (CO), Billy Long (MO), Thomas Massie (KY), Brian Mast (FL), Mary Miller (IL), Greg Murphy (NC), Ralph Norman (SC), Scott Perry (PA), Matt Rosendale (MT), Chip Roy (TX), Greg Steube (FL), Randy Weber (TX), and Daniel Webster (FL) joined Congressman Johnson in signing the brief.

In the Senate, Rick Scott (FL), Mike Lee (UT), Jim Inhofe (OK), James Lankford (OK), Steve Daines (MT), Roger Wicker (MS), Mike Braun (IN), and Roger Marshall (KS) joined Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in signing the brief.

Congressman Johnson is the Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference, a member of the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and a former constitutional law litigator.