Crocker v. Austin

Crocker v. Austin

Airmen Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Their Faith and Their Military Service

The Story

Senior Airman Faith Crocker, the daughter of a Baptist pastor, grew up with a deep understanding of the importance of selfless sacrifice for others. When the opportunity came to serve her country in the Air Force Reserves, she jumped at the chance, an opportunity that brought her to the flight line at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana. But when the Biden Administration mandated in 2021 that all servicemembers take the COVID-19 vaccine or face involuntary discharge, Faith found herself deeply conflicted. After careful prayer and consideration, Faith developed a strongly held religious belief that she must not take the vaccine.

So, Faith went through the process the military had established for those seeking religious accommodations. With the support of her unit chaplain, she explained her religious concerns and requested support for them. The Biden Administration rejected her request with a perfunctory form letter. She appealed this rejection, explaining her beliefs and their importance to her:

“Although I have only been in the Air force just short of three years, I plan on continuing my career here for the rest of my life and eventually becoming an officer. I love my job and making a difference whether it is big or small. My coworkers and supervisors are the best work family I can ask for. They are continually supporting me and teaching me new things for me to become a better maintainer, airman, leader, and woman. I am fully aware that I am seen as just an airman who the Air Force is comfortable with losing. My dedication and work ethic is not replaceable. I abide by the rules and have never had any disciplinary issues. I also believe it is right to stand up for what I believe in. That being said, I will not allow anyone to disregard my religion. I am asking for assistance in defending the Constitution that I swore to defend when I raised my right hand.”

The Biden Administration’s military leadership again rejected Faith’s request without any individualized analysis of her case. Such an analysis would have shown that COVID-19 was no longer a significant problem at Barksdale Air Force Base and that Faith served a critical national security role in assisting the bomber squadron during a time of global challenge.

Instead, the military leadership informed Faith that she had five days to take the vaccine or face disciplinary action and involuntary administrative separation. This would amount to the loss of her career, her educational opportunities, and her dream.

In despair, Faith contacted the Pelican Center for Justice, which agreed to take on her case to fight government overreach and defend Faith’s religious liberty. Faith is one of many Americans standing up and fighting against government overreach, and the Pelican Center for Justice is proud to stand with her in her fight.

The Latest

On July 21, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed a Notice of Appeal to appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit because the underlying issues of religious discrimination raised by the case still merit a decision.

The Timeline

  • Complaint. On March 20, 2022, the Pelican Institute filed its Complaint on behalf of Faith in the Western District of Louisiana. The case was assigned to the Honorable Maurice Hicks. On March 28, 2022, the Pelican Institute filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to protect Faith during the pendency of the action.
  • First Amended Complaint. On May 31, 2022, the Pelican Institute added six other servicemembers to the Complaint who sought its assistance. On June 20, 2022, the Pelican Institute filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to protect these servicemembers during the pendency of their action.
  • Class Action. On July 27, 2022, a judge in the Southern District of Ohio certified a class of all Air Force servicemembers that protected the Crocker plaintiffs while the case was appealed by the Government.
  • Legislation. On December 23, 2022, President Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, legislation that ordered the military to rescind the vaccine mandate. The legislation was passed after significant attention was brought to the issue because of cases like that of Senior Airman Crocker.
  • Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. On March 30, 2023, the Government filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the rescission of the military vaccine mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act moots the entire case. On April 13, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed a Response in Opposition, arguing that the underlying issues of religious discrimination still merited a decision.
  • Memorandum Ruling. On June 22, 2023, the district court granted the Government’s Motion to Dismiss on mootness grounds.
  • Fifth Circuit Notice of Appeal. On July 21, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed a Notice of Appeal to appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit.
  • Appellants’ Brief. On November 16, 2023, the Pelican Institute filed its Appellants’ Brief on behalf of Senior Airman Crocker and the other Plaintiffs.

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