The Pentagon has asked the Supreme Court to restore the department’s authority over unvaccinated Navy SEAL deployments.

Background: Previously, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that soldiers would be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The order followed similar vaccine mandates announced by President Biden which sought to have private businesses order employees to also receive the shot.

The order triggered a legal challenge from three dozen service members assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command, including 26 Navy SEALs, to the Pentagon’s coronavirus vaccine mandate on religious grounds.

In January, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, temporarily blocked the military from taking any “adverse action” against the legal challenges, including making changes to training or deployment based on their unvaccinated status. 

In February, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit declined to grant the Defense Department’s request to halt Judge O’Connor’s order.

What Happened: On Monday, the Defense Department filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to restore the department’s authority over the deployment of unvaccinated SEALs.

What the Pentagon Says: According to the Biden administration’s filing, the lower court rulings have tied commanders’ hands and already have eroded health and safety protocols for the armed forces, including by forcing the Navy to deploy an unvaccinated SEAL to Hawaii “for duty on a submarine against its military judgment.” (per The Hill)

“The Navy has an extraordinarily compelling interest in ensuring that the servicemembers who perform those missions are as physically and medically prepared as possible,” read the Biden administration’s court filing. “That includes vaccinating them against COVID-19, which is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest.” (per The Hill)

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