Federal judge pauses dismissal of Air Force members who refuse vaccination

The dismissed lawsuit, which began locally, has now affected Air Force servicemen around the world lobbying similar protests.

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A federal judge has issued a temporary pause on dismissing members of the U.S. Air Force over their refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Cincinnati's U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland ordered the Air Force to stop discharging service members who claim religious exemption from vaccine requirements. The pause is currently set to last 14 days.

The local lawsuit, which started with just under 100 plaintiffs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, now impacts thousands of Air Force personnel worldwide.

"We are pleased by the judge’s decision protecting the constitutional rights of service members who have dedicated their lives to protecting our constitutional rights," attorney Chris Wiest told local outlet FOX19.

AIR FORCE MASTER SERGEANT EXPELLED AFTER REFUSING COVID VACCINE: 'A PROBLEM FOR RIGHT NOW'

(Maxwell Air Force Base)

"We will continue to litigate this case to its conclusion and look forward to continuing this battle with the federal government," Wiest added.

In March, the Supreme Court temporarily granted the Pentagon’s request to limit the deployment of unvaccinated active U.S. military members who refused to get COVID shots based on religious grounds.

First Liberty Institute and law firm Schaerr Jaffe LLP filed a separate lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Air Force last month on behalf of Air Force members who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus — about 2%.

A vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine is seen ready for use in the trial at St. George's University hospital in London, Oct. 7, 2020. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal approval may offer a boost for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused the vaccine for religious reasons. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

A vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine is seen ready for use in the trial at St. George's University hospital in London, Oct. 7, 2020. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal approval may offer a boost for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused the vaccine for religious reasons. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File) ((AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File))

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Plaintiffs allege that the Department of Defense is violating the First Amendment rights of its service members by imposing a vaccine mandate that "substantially burdens" free exercise of religion, despite granting hundreds of administrative and medical exemptions. 

In addition, the lawsuit argues that the government does not have a compelling interest and has not provided service members other less restrictive manners in which to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Fox News's Kelly Laco contributed to this report.