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Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Blade, a hospital corpsman, administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a mass-immunization exercise on Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Dec. 7, 2021. President Joe Biden’s administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on an emergency basis in a clash with 35 Navy special operations forces who are refusing on religious grounds to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Blade, a hospital corpsman, administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a mass-immunization exercise on Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Dec. 7, 2021. President Joe Biden’s administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on an emergency basis in a clash with 35 Navy special operations forces who are refusing on religious grounds to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Josh Coté/U.S. Navy)

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WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — President Joe Biden’s administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on an emergency basis in a clash with 35 Navy special operations forces who are refusing on religious grounds to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Defense Department is seeking to partially block a federal judge’s order that requires the Navy to deploy the sailors without regard to their unvaccinated status.

“A SEAL who falls ill not only cannot complete his or her own mission, but risks infecting others as well, particularly in close quarters, including on submarines,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in court papers, filed Monday. “The Navy has a compelling interest in avoiding those foreseeable risks, especially given the transmissibility and virulence of COVID-19.”

In his Jan. 3 order, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas also prohibited the Navy from enforcing its vaccine mandate against the group, but the administration isn’t asking the Supreme Court to immediately lift that part of the order while the litigation goes forward.

Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency requests from Texas, asked the group to respond to the administration’s request by March 14.

The case is Austin v. U.S. Navy Seals 1-26, 21A477.

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