An air force sergeant who argues that his Branches’ enforcement of a vaccine mandate is a violation of his first amendment right to religion is facing court-martial.
Fox News reported, Air Force Master Sergeant Vincent White, who has been on inactive duty for 12 years, said his request and subsequent appeals for a religious exemption to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine were denied, and that he was handed an Article 15 punishment last week for his continued refusal to comply.
Article 15 is a non-judicial punishment levied by the armed forces against a serviceman or woman. The punishment entails the extra duty of up to 45 days, forfeit of two months’ pay, restrictions, and a verbal reprimand. This punishment may also include a permanent loss of rank and presumably a decrease in pay. If the punishment is not accepted the only alternative is to accept a trial via court-martial.
Master Sergeant White has filed an official response to the article 15 via his lawyer R. Davis Younts. In the written response White refuses to accept punishment. As a result, he has subjected himself to a court-martial.
Unfortunately for servicemen and women, the odds in a court-martial trial are not stacked in their favor. The likelihood of White leaving the trial victorious is low. The offensive lawyer will likely argue that the first amendment right has been revoked, due to the nature of duty. However, this case may create some interesting precedent for the air force.
“The ball is in their court to either back down or take him to court-martial,” White’s attorney told Fox in a statement. “My gut tells me that they’re going to have to go forward. I cannot imagine that they would have done this and served my client, as a master sergeant, with an Article 15 and persisted in doing that if they weren’t serious about going to trial.”
The “moving forward” that Younts refers to is of course the court-martial proceeding.