Senior airman at BAFB sues Defense Dept. over denial of religious exemption to vaccine mandate
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - A lawsuit has been filed in federal court on behalf of a senior airman at Barksdale Air Force Base against the Defense Department claiming the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates her religious beliefs.
Faith Crocker, 21, is an aircraft ordnance system mechanic with the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. She’s in the Air Force Reserve, currently ordered to extended active duty at Barksdale.
Crocker is the “daughter of a Baptist pastor” and has served for three years. She’s from Atlanta, Texas.
According to the lawsuit, which The Pelican Institute filed on the airman’s behalf Monday, March 21 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Crocker submitted a religious accommodation request in October 2021. The request was ultimately “disapproved” by the commander of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.
She filed an appeal in December, which was also denied, this time by the Air Force surgeon general.
“I believe that God wants me to do certain things and I prayed multiple times what I should do. He told me not to do this,” Crocker said during a morning news conference outside the federal courthouse in downtown Shreveport. “I think it is wrong my chain of command is making me do something I’m not comfortable with and that is against my religion.”
The lawsuit also claims that earlier in March, Crocker was instructed to do one of the following within five calendar days: get the vaccine, submit a retirement request if eligible or refuse the vaccine in writing. She submitted the following response to her commander after retaining legal counsel: “As of today I will not be getting the COVID-19 vaccination. That being said, I love my country and will not give up the opportunity to serve but I also love my God and will honor Him in all that I do.”
Congressman Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, was also present during the news conference to express his support for Crocker and his disapproval of the mandate. Johnson believes the mandate hinders military preparedness.
“When you balance it against the great harms and threats that are against our country, what we need them to be focused on, that affects our readiness,” he explained. “There are so many members of Congress that are deeply concerned about this. We feel this injustice is a bad policy for the Biden administration.”
The defendants listed in the complaint include Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Defense Department, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III, Air Force Surgeon General Robert Miller and Air Force Reserve Command Cmdr. Richard Scobee.
Crocker also argues that the mandate impacts her Air Force career and college education. She says she should not have to choose between God and country.
“I would like to be in the Air Force until I retire. I want to become an officer and a pilot or a chaplain,” she explained. “If I get kicked out, then I am not able to pursue my college career and all my dreams would be crushed.”
The lawsuit is also seeking a “preliminary or permanent” injunction prohibiting the Defense Department from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate against Crocker.
According to the lawsuit “... more than 4,637 religious accommodation requests have been denied, and only 17 granted.”
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