A Georgia federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Air Force from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate against a Christian officer.
The order comes a month after the unidentified officer sued, alleging that the mandate violates her sincerely held religious beliefs. The Air Force issued a final denial of her religious accommodation request in December.
According to court documents, the officer "believes that receiving a vaccine that was derived from or tested on aborted fetal tissue in its development would violate her conscience and is contrary to her faith."
Injecting her body with a "novel substance of unknown long-term effects" would violate her belief that her "body is the temple of the Holy Spirit," the court documents continued.
The officer contracted the coronavirus in December 2020 and has tested positive for antibodies twice since, according to her lawsuit. She is stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
Stephen Crampton, of the Thomas More Society, and legal counsel for the officer, hailed the judge’s ruling.
"This is a great victory for religious freedom," Crampton told NBC News. "It is disgraceful how the military in general has disrespected fundamental First Amendment rights."
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Tilman E. Self III remarked that the Air Force has rejected 99.76% of all religious accommodation requests and had denied all of them up until the last two weeks, when it approved nine.
"With such a marked record disfavoring religious accommodation requests, the Court easily finds that the Air Force’s process to protect religious rights is both illusory and insincere," he wrote. "In short, it’s just 'theater.'"
An Air Force spokesperson said in a statement that the service is "aware of the preliminary injunction and will abide by the Court’s Order until the matter is legally resolved."
Her lawsuit names Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force Surgeon General Robert Miller.
The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit legal firm that states its mission as "restoring respect in law for life, family and religious liberty."
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