by Eric Lendrum
On Tuesday, a district court judge ruled against the state of Oklahoma in its effort to block the coronavirus vaccine mandate for members of the state’s National Guard, The Hill reports.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot explained his reasoning in a 29-page ruling, in which he rejected a motion filed by Governor Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) and Attorney General John O’Connor (R-Okla.) to indefinitely block the mandate; Judge Friot claimed that the plaintiffs’ claim was “without merit.”
“The court is required to decide this case on the basis of federal law, not common sense,” said Friot in his ruling. “But, either way, the result would be the same. The claims asserted by the Governor and his co-plaintiffs are without merit.”
Stitt and O’Connor had filed the lawsuit in early December, naming Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as defendants. The suit sought to have the vaccine mandate for all members of the armed services declared unconstitutional, and also asked the courts to prevent the federal government from enforcing penalties on members who refused to get the vaccine.
The primary focus in the matter of jurisdiction and proper authority was on two different statutes: Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which gives the state’s governor control of the National Guard, and Title 10, which puts the National Guard under the control of the federal government. Judge Friot ultimately came down in favor of the Title 10 argument.
Attorney General O’Connor’s office released a statement following Friot’s ruling, saying that “we expect the Biden administration to review in good faith all exemptions and religious accommodations requested by our fellow Oklahomans. We will not be surprised if the President’s vaccine mandate actually reduces the nation’s military readiness instead of promoting it. We are analyzing the State’s response to this decision.”
While Friot continued to insult state leadership in his ruling, he nevertheless asked the Defense Department to consider a grace period that would allow for unvaccinated members to get vaccinated, rather than seek punishment against those members.
“What the court cannot ignore is the potentially devastating effect of involuntary separation…especially where, as appears to be the case here, the individual non-compliant Guard members did not have the benefit of well-informed leadership at the highest level of the Oklahoma Guard,” Friot wrote. “The court strongly urges the defendants to give every consideration to providing a brief grace period–to facilitate prompt compliance with the vaccination mandate–before directly or indirectly taking action which would end the military careers of any Oklahoma Guard members.”
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