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U.S. Navy Destroyer Sidelined Amid Court Battle with Unvaccinated Commanding Officer

Mike Schuler
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March 9, 2022

The readiness status of a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer is up the air as a legal battle between the Navy and the destroyer’s anti-vax Commanding Officer makes its way through the courts, according to reports.

A federal judge in Florida last month granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the unidentified Commanding Officer and a Lieutenant Colonel co-defendent who contend that their religious freedoms are being violated by the Navy’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The Navy maintains that CO’s failed leadership has caused the service to lose confidence in his ability to command and therefor the service cannot deploy the warship as long as the defendent is in charge.

The preliminary injunction granted by District Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa prohibits the Navy from requiring the commander or the lieutenant colonel to take the vaccine or issuing “any punitive or retaliatory measure against [them] pending a final judgment in the case,” according to a report by Stars and Stripes.

The judge’s decision effectively renders the East Coast guided-missile destroyer “out of commission” and also raises complex legal questions with regards to federal judges no longer defering to military commanders, particularly in cases impacting readiness, USNI News reports.

The Navy is now awaiting to see if the case will be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

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