Federal judge rejects Oklahoma trial against vaccine mandate for National Guard

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot of Oklahoma on Tuesday ruled in favor of the trial of Gov. Kevin Stitt and others, filed earlier this month in opposition to the COVID vaccine mandate for National Guard troops in the state.

Stitt, Attorney General John O’Connor and 16 members of the National Guard in the state requested a provisional ban halting the order, which Friot rejected, saying their allegations were not sufficient to stop the mandate.

“The vaccine mandate, which the governor objects to, is – in addition to the nine that already apply to all civil servants – intended to protect civil servants against the virus, which in less than two years has killed more Americans than has been killed. action in all the wars the United States has ever fought, “Friot wrote. “The court is obliged to decide the case on the basis of federal law, not common sense. But no matter what, the outcome would be the same.”

When the lawsuit was filed, Stitt issued a statement in which he said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin went beyond his constitutional authority by adopting the mandate of the National Guard.

Austin decided that those who did not receive a vaccine would not be allowed to participate in federally funded exercises and other training required to maintain their status as a member of the National Guard.

He said the COVID vaccines, like many others already required by the military, are key to ensuring the United States has a healthy force of troops ready to defend the country.

Members of the Oklahoma National Guard are on standby ahead of a campaign rally for US President Donald Trump at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A federal judge on Tuesday ruled in a lawsuit from Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and others challenging the Pentagon’s vaccine requirements for National Guard troops in the state.
Find McNamee / Getty Images

Stitt and O’Connor have been outspoken critics of vaccine mandates and have filed numerous lawsuits challenging federal mandates. Telephone messages from the Associated Press seeking comment on the decision from Stitt and O’Connor’s offices were not immediately returned.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma National Guard declined to comment while the lawsuit is pending.

The White House and health officials have credited coronavirus vaccine mandates with increasing vaccination rates and limiting COVD-19 deaths.

About a week after the trial was filed, Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Brigadier General Thomas Mancino warned in an open letter to members of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard that refusal to receive the coronavirus vaccine could end their military careers.

Before filing a lawsuit, Stitt asked Austin to suspend the mandate of the Oklahoma National Guard and ordered his new adjutant general to assure members that they would not be punished for refusing the vaccine.

Pentagon officials have repeatedly said that Austin has the authority to impose medical emergency requirements, including vaccines, on the entire military, including the guard.

In Judge Friot’s order, he said state officials indicated that 89 percent of the pilots on duty have been vaccinated, while only 40 percent of Army guards have been vaccinated. The deadline for members of the Air National Guard to be fully vaccinated was December 2, while members of the Army National Guard have until June 30 to be fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Stitt, who was the country’s first governor to confirm he received COVID-19, said he has no plans to get a booster shot, although state health officials are urging vaccinated people to do just that, especially as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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