A federal court on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction to block the enforcement of the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The United State District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled that the military branch may not force religious objectors to get vaccinated pending the resolution of the Doster v. Kendall case in a full trial, according to a press release from the Thomas More Society.

The ruling follows a separate ruling in Air Force Officer v. Austin, et al., in which a federal judge in Georgia temporarily blocked the Air Force from requiring a specific officer from getting vaccinated against religious objections. Thomas More Society lawyers represented the anonymous officer in that dispute.

Thursday’s ruling, however, has considerably more far reaching implications as it bars enforcement of the vaccine mandate for all religious objectors provided they submitted a religious accommodation request prior to the issuance of the injunction. It also extends the enforcement prohibition to reservists, national guardsmen, academy cadets, and the Space Force.

“This order is a godsend,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Adam Hochschild. “The government has persisted in taking punitive action against those men and women of faith who cannot in good conscience take these experimental vaccines, and this order makes clear that such actions are unconstitutional.” 

Thursday’s order only covers the Air and Space Forces, however. Meanwhile, the Army has dragged its feet in approving religious exemptions to its vaccine mandate, granting only 20 accommodations from roughly 8,000 applications.

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