Exemption For The Vaccine – Huge Victory For Navy SEALs With Mike Berry – A huge victory for Navy SEALs and the U.S. military was won at the courts this week. Mike Berry from First Liberty Institute joins us to share the details of this important case.

Air Date: 01/31/2022

Guest: Mike Berry

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.



You find your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. Thanks for joining us today on WallBuilders Live. We are taking on the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com for previous programming, it’s all recorded there in the archives. You can go grab some of those Good News Fridays and Foundations of Freedom Thursdays interviews throughout the week, all available at wallbuilderslive.com and make your contribution there as well.

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I’m Rick Green, former Texas legislator, and America’s Constitution coach. And I’m here with David Barton; he is America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders and Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor, and president of WallBuilders. And guys, later in the program, Mike Berry will be with us. 

Of course, I love the guys over First Liberty Institute, they do incredible work. Mike, specifically a Marine, he does a lot of their cases that deal with religious liberty for folks in the military, and has one of the biggest cases in the country and just got a great victory. So he’s going to be sharing that with us later.

But it’s so good that we have these legal organizations out there that fight these battles for people that can’t afford to go get an attorney to fight these kind of battles, most of the time are churches that would go broke if they tried to pay all the legal fees. Thankfully, we got First Liberty and Liberty Counsel and all these groups out there, really a blessing to have these Christian attorneys fighting for us.


Yeah, it’s a weird thing that with this medical pandemic that we’ve had two years now, it’s spent more time in court than anything we’ve had in a long time and it spent time in court because so much of it has been geared against not only just government tyranny, but government tyranny against religious belief and expression. So whether it’s shutting churches down, governors trying to do that, or whether it’s mayor’s trying to do that, or whether it’s saying, hey, you can’t have a religious exemption, you’re going to do this, you’re going to take the jab, didn’t matter what you believe is, I mean, there’s been so much coercion that’s gone on the last couple years, and so many lawsuits that are out there.

And it’s been interesting that a lot of the coercion has really gone with the military. And quite frankly, this is something we’ve been covering 2, 3, 4 years. I mean, I go back to the President Obama when he was in and he said, well, we’re not going to do the just war theory anymore for our soldiers. And that’s a huge thing because that deals with conscience. 

If I’m in war, and I have to shoot someone, on behalf of my country in defense of my own life, even though it’s justified, how do I not feel guilty for the rest of my life? And there’re answers to that. I mean in the Bible really does lay out what you can do in the sense of taking life when it’s justified and when it’s not justified. There’s clear example.


Yeah. And let me jump in. I think that’s a really significant point of this Just war theory is that Just war theory teaches there are some wars that are justified, and some wars that are not. And so if you find yourself in a justified position, then if you have to take a life in a justified position, right, just like somebody at home, if you’re having to defend your home and your family against a violent intruder, and to defend your home and your family –

You have to use lethal force to stop this violent intruder, right, that that’s not something that you need to carry that moral burden of oh, my gosh, what have I done, because you were actually doing the morally right thing to protect your family, to protect the life of your kids, of your spouse, whatever the case might be.

And this is kind of the notion of Just war theory that there are some situations that are justified in what you are doing. And dad, even as you’re mentioning, we’ve seen the federal government change things with the military. It’s worth noting, it’s really probably big picture beyond the military, it’s all federal employees, or anybody that the federal government thinks they can influence based on financial dollars. Because even when the US Supreme Court said that the federal government has the authority to tell medical workers, right, because these facilities that are getting government dollars for these hospitals, well, then therefore, you’re kind of like a federal worker.

And so if the hospital requires you to have a vaccine, you don’t get an exemption from that. Even though we saw the Biden administration, specifically or the president, and maybe more generally could not force businesses to do a vaccine mandate, that was a positive thing. But because I said, well, but really federally, anybody that falls under the federal system, the government can control. And this is where the military now is a major target of not recognizing basic religious exemptions, basic medical exemptions, etc, etc, etc. They’re pretty much telling everybody you get the jab or get out.

And really, it almost comes down to who’s going to be compliant and do what they’re told. And if you’re not going to do everything, you’re told, if there’s any level of questioning or resistance, then we don’t want you in our military anymore. And that is a very scary place to think about a military that would not question what is morally right or wrong or to remove people that my question was morally right and wrong that you want people that are simply going to follow orders no matter what they are.


And it’s interesting that in this aspect of COVID, and religious exemptions in the military, the military is given exemptions if you’re not religious. But if you are religious, no, no, you don’t get those. And the last time they did, there were 1,200 military members who have said, look, military guys take vaccines all the time, but from a religious standpoint, I can’t take this one because of what’s in it or what it does to me or alters DNA. I can’t do that religiously.

And at this point, we had not seen a single medical exemption granted on religious grounds until just recently when two Marines finally got an exemption. That’s first we’ve seen. So we’ve gone a year and a half, and nobody in the military is able to get this. And that’s why the court case came up. 

And that’s why you have so many of these legal groups now defending SEALs, and defending Marines and an Army and Air Force and all these other officers and medical workers in the military, etc. They have religious conscience objections, and we’ve not been able to go anywhere until we finally had this win.

So Mike Berry, part of First Liberty, this was a case they had representing the military guys. And again, this is not over vaccinations because these guys take vaccinations: over this particular one, and religious objections, so this one, is there a ground in the military for religious objections, and up to now it’s been no.

As Tim said, you’re going to do what you’re told. We want people who do what they’re told. Well, you can have an objection and not be religious, and we’ll let you get away with that. But if it’s religious, not so. This is a big one that Mike Berry is going to tell us about.


Mike Berry, our special guest; stay with us, folks. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.


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Welcome back WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Great to have Mike Berry back with us from First Liberty. Mike, thanks for coming on, man.


It’s great to be with you again.


You guys are running like crazy. You’ve got so many cases right now, huge cases. These aren’t small wins. I mean, but lots of victories and you all continue to be on the frontlines. We’re just so thankful for you. Firstliberty.org is the website. I encourage everyone to go there, get on the email list, donate to them, they do phenomenal work.

And Mike, you’re leading the charge on this defense of military members who are being forced out potentially if they don’t get the jab, and just an incredible. I mean, to me, completely illogical thing, they claim it’s for readiness, yet they’re creating chaos in our military that’s making us not ready and wanting to get rid of a bunch of the SEALs. I mean, come on, these are the healthiest guys on the planet. It just makes no sense.

But anyway, you are right there already got a great fantastic victory at the district court level. So let’s talk about that victory, and then don’t let me forget, before we get off this interview to also talk about where you think all of this is going in light of what the Supreme Court did on the employer mandate and the health care thing. So first of all, your clients in your case, you’ve got a mix, right, you got some seals and a bunch of other military folks?


Yeah. First Liberty represents 35 Navy SEALs and other members of the Naval Special Warfare community. So, predominantly vast majority of them are SEALs, and then you’ve got a few other members who are technically not SEALs, but work very closely with the SEALs. And they’re also in the Special Warfare and Special Operations community. And every single one of them has a sincere religious objection to the vaccine. 

And they’ve submitted requests for religious accommodation. And every single one of them has been told either you can submit your request and it’s never going be approved, or even if your request is approved, you can’t be a Navy SEAL anymore, or you can’t be in Special Warfare anymore because we’re going to medically disqualify you because you won’t get the vaccine. 

Meanwhile, so that sort of on the one hand, right; if you ask for a religious exemption, you’re either not going to get it and get kicked out or you might get it and I’ll talk about the might get it in just a second, but you might get the religious exemption but even if you do, you can’t be a Navy SEAL anymore.


These are guys that have been through the most rigorous training. I mean, no kid, not just the healthiest, the toughest guys on the planet. And we’re going to say, you’re no good to us anymore because you won’t get the jab. I just got to emphasize that because there’s zero logic there and zero science there. But go ahead.


Yeah. Well, I mean, collectively, right, our clients have more than 350 years of military experience, more than 100 combat deployments among them. And these are the types of warriors and elite fighters that we want, and we need defending our nation, defending our freedoms, and instead they’re fighting for their careers, which is just atrocious to me.

So, the Navy’s telling them you’re never going to get a religious exemption granted. Meanwhile, the Navy has now said, well, but we have granted hundreds, possibly even thousands of medical exemptions, administrative exemptions. And look, it doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out that when you say you can get a medical exemption or an administrative exemption, but you can’t get a religious exemption, that’s called religious discrimination: you’re treating religion less favorably than you are treating other categories. That’s unconstitutional. And that is illegal.

And thankfully, the Federal Court, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor from the Northern District of Texas, that’s what he held in his ruling, which was on the preliminary injunction that we filed. He said the Navy is discriminating against these SEALs and others. And he said look, in this religious exemption process that the Navy has where they say you might get one, he called it theater, right, it’s a sham process. And that’s because First Liberty was able to uncover and produce as evidence a document that was a 50 step process that the Navy claims that they are using to review religious exemption requests.

But nowhere in that 50 step procedure was there ever the option to approve the religious exemption request. The only option ever given was disapproval. And the judge obviously noted that and said, it doesn’t matter how many steps you put in there, how many different offices it sent to; if the only option is to disapprove, then it’s a sham process, right?


That’s right.


And so we knew that. I think everybody in the military who’s gone through this process, they instinctively and intuitively knew that it was a sham, and then everything was a predetermined outcome. And it wasn’t until First Liberty produced that document in court that we sort of had the smoking gun to prove it. And again, thankfully, the judge read the document, understood exactly what it meant and what it implicated and ruled the way he did.


Well, it’s very, very good news on what these guys are going through, I mean, to add insult to injury, what is this I read about where they’re also warning them, they’re going to take away, confiscate their Special Warfare devices, like the trident and things that are literally, I mean, this symbolizes what these guys fight for. I mean, so they’re literally just trying to, I don’t know the nice way to say it, I mean, they’re just trying to ‘go’ these guys.


Rick, it’s vindictive. So to become a Navy SEAL, if anybody who’s ever watched discovery chain or the movies knows, you go through buds which is one of the most demanding intensive military training schools that are in existence in the world, and to make it through buds and then come out as a seal, once you’ve completed all your training and become a SEAL, you earn what’s called an NEC device. And the nickname they give it is the ‘Bird’, right, because it looks like a little bird when you’re looking at it from a distance. Or sometimes people refer to it as the ‘Trident’ because it’s the eagle holding a trident in talents.

I mean, it’s instantly recognizable to anybody in the military right and it says, this person is a Navy SEAL. And yes, even in the military, when you’re around Navy SEAL, you kind of in awe of them because they hold like a mythological status in the eyes of Americans, and rightfully so. I mean, they make movies about Navy SEALs and write books about them.

And the Navy has told our clients and probably others, okay, if you asked for this religious exemption, we’re going to take away your ‘Bird’, right, we’re going to take away your ‘Trident’ or your Special Warfare device: which is really just what that is it’s just vindictive, and it’s just trying to rub salt in the wound and to say you’re no good to us. You don’t belong in the SEALs because you have a religious belief and a religious conviction, and you’re a person of faith. And I think that’s the part of this that a lot of people are missing, Rick, is it’s not just about the vaccine and whether to get the vaccine because every one of these SEALs believes in individual choice…


Oh, these guys have had tons of vaccine. Yeah, they’ve have had tons of vaccine too.


They believe in individual choice and individual freedom. If one of their buddies wants to get the vaccine, then by all means, go get the vaccine. But why is it that the Navy is only punishing those who have a religious objection? Those are the only ones getting punished and getting kicked out. And so I think that it’s something deeper than just health and welfare and readiness, etc. I really think this is politically motivated. And this really smells and looks like an ideological purge. That’s just my opinion.


No, I was going to throw that word out there and see how you reacted, but you already said it. I mean, it seems like that all over the place, especially for the military, I mean, we’re in precarious times right now for our country, and where our country is going to go and what the proper role of the government is going to be and how the government’s being used against its own citizens in some ways.

So this is an important fight. Because we want the good guys in there, we want the people that believe in freedom and faith and have that foundation to be these frontline best of the best; and to remove them, it’s a dangerous, dangerous thing. And that’s why yours fight is so, so important. And let all your clients know that our audience is praying for them, that we appreciate them, that we are thankful, we can do what we do because of what they do. 

And we are appalled at the fact that our own government is essentially turning on them. And the very people that put their lives on the line over and over and over again for us are being treated in this way. It is truly appalling. So we’re thrilled that the victory occurred. What happens next? I’m assuming that DoD is going to appeal and in this fight continues.


Well, the ball is certainly in their court, and the DoD and they’re represented by the Department of Justice, the ball is in their court. They have a certain amount of time to appeal. And so we’re waiting to see what happens there. And obviously, if they do decide to appeal, we’re fully prepared for that. 

And we’ll take this fight as far as we need to go. If we need to go all the way to the US Supreme Court, that’s what we’ll do to vindicate our client’s rights, and it really send a message that obviously the case is about 35 Navy SEALs, but it’s about so much more than that, right? It’s about what are the values that we want our country to stand for, and to be built upon?

Because what the DoD and what the Navy is really saying, right, and so you go to firstliberty.org and read the court’s opinion and read the briefing that we filed, but what the DoD is really saying is, we only want people who unquestioningly follow every order they’re given. They don’t stop to think, they don’t question, they just do it, and without asking, and without hesitation. And that leads to a very, very dark place. Right? What you’re asking for there is just nothing more than hired mercenaries.

And I’ll say this, as somebody who served in the military, I can tell you the reason we have officers in the military, Rick, is not to follow orders. A trained monkey can follow orders. What we need good officers in the military to do is to know which orders not to follow, or which orders not to issue. Right? 

And so right now, we don’t have that. We’re missing leadership in our military. We’re missing those leaders who are willing to step up and say, wait a minute, this sure looks like it’s going to infringe upon constitutional rights of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Are we sure we want to be doing this? There was no adult in the room that stood up and said that, and I get it.

I know why they’re fearful for their careers. They don’t want to be fired or demoted or lose out on their next promotion. But sometimes, you’ve got to count the cost and do what’s right. In the military, we said, that’s why you were the ranking your color. Right? You have to have the moral fortitude to stand up and do that, and right now, we’re missing that. 

And so that’s what this case to me is about beyond just the actual case. It’s about what kind of country do we want to have going forward? And what kind of military do we want to have that’s going to defend us? Do we want paid mercenaries? Or do we want people who are there for the right reason?


So true, Mike, man, I mean, you’re hitting on some really important topics here that we don’t talk enough about. Because when you combine what you just talked about in terms of the individual member of the military, with the lack of teaching, just war theory and all of those things that we’ve allowed to happen, instead of having a moral compass and a moral guiding principles that can help you make those decisions, it’s exactly what you just described, you end up with essentially hired mercenaries.

And I think it was like 1750s Samuel Davies sermon, where is it that David Barton put in his book, ‘Celebrate Liberty’, that’s all about that, and saying, hey, you got to know why you’re going to war. And I mean, you and I’ve talked about this before, but I mean, that’s part of why I think you end up with a higher number of PTSD situations because people haven’t been taught the moral reason why they’re there.

But men, I can’t imagine what happens to our military going forward if they do purge all the guys and gals that have a moral compass: very dangerous place. Your battle is critical, not just for the SEALs and for the military, but for us, for the entire nation, and the direction of the country. How can people help you guys pray for you? What can they donate? What can folks do to come alongside the SEALs, and you guys and all your other cases?


The easiest way is just go to firstliberty.org. You can read about the SEALs and our other cases in the military, you can read about the other cases that First Liberty is fighting for across the nation to defend religious liberty. And if people feel led to donate, obviously, we appreciate that too. We’re 100% donor-funded. And we’re a nonprofit, which means none of our clients, whether it’s the SEALs, or any other clients that First Liberty represents, they never ever receive a bill from us because we do everything free of charge. So firstliberty.org is the place to learn more.


Our most important question today how often do the SEALs complain about the fact that they’re being represented by Marine?


No. We’re blood brothers now. You know, I haven’t…


You been in battle together now. Yeah.


I don’t have a ‘Trident’ or ‘Bird’. I’m not quite at that point yet. But this is as close to I’ll ever get to working with Navy SEALs in my career, so it’s definitely one of the highlights. If it weren’t for the actual issue that we were dealing with, and how terrible it is, if it weren’t for that, I’d say this was the highlight of my professional career.


Well, congrats on the on the victory at the district court level. And, Mike, you’re a patriot man. I appreciate you. God bless you. We love you guys. You all keep up the great work. And we’ll talk to you soon.


Alright, thanks, Rick.


That was Mike Berry. We appreciate him being with us. We’re back with David and Tim Barton now. Thanks to Mike Berry and all the good work First Liberty does for us and frankly, the whole country in the future of freedom, if I can say it in a way that it sounds like hyperbole. But guys, this is a fight to literally make sure that people can stay in the military and not be thrown out of the United States military for a religious objection to something that is even scientifically now people are saying doesn’t work and isn’t doing what it was meant to do. So I think they really are helping to save the country in this particular fight.


They really are. The foundation of what the country is built on, recognizing the rights of religious conscience, the freedom of religion, the freedom of choice, and some of these regards, so to speak. And as you and Mike pointed out, it’s just crazy that we now have leaders in government, leaders in the military who would be so vindictive, and I would even say, petty, that you’re going to say, hey, we’re going to take this little emblem, this ‘Trident’, this ‘Bird’, whatever the case might be, we’re going to take this thing from you because we’re not going to recognize what you accomplished by going through buds, by graduating from buds. We’re going to say, we don’t recognize that anymore because you won’t do what we’re telling you to do right now. That’s just crazy on so many levels.

And so I am grateful to see that there are military members who, even beyond whatever their fate is, there are individuals involved in these lawsuits who recognize what they are doing as they’re fighting for religious freedom for all future members of the military. So, I mean, we know some of the individuals involved in this scenario, we’ve heard some of the stories. And they’re not just doing this for their career. They literally are doing it for the future of the military and what that means. And this is yet again one great example of military individuals putting their life, their careers on the line for the sake of other people.

And certainly, it was encouraging to see what the court said here. Dad, I would imagine the government is going to pick it up, Department of Defense, whoever else is going to pick this case up, they’re going to appeal it because this would look very bad for them at this point to have not granted this and a court overturned what they’re doing. So I would think this probably goes to Supreme Court. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens.


It will be interesting to see what happens. And the thing that I think is at stake here is really the moral conscience of the nation. Because going back to Obama, when they took at Just war theory since then, they’ve been saying, hey, you do whatever we tell you. And as Mike said, and as you said earlier, Tim, is they’re looking for people who follow orders, regardless of what that order is. 

And I’m reminded of Israel. and Israel and their military, they always have one person and every group that’s required to say no to what the commander says. You have to do that so you can think of the consequences, think of the other side, think of, well, I hadn’t thought about that. If everybody’s a yes, man, then you’re going to get into areas you don’t want to get into.


And specifically, they do this in strategy sessions. So not like on the battlefield when the commander gives command, he’s like, no, I’m not doing it. But when they’re discussing what’s the best strategy, what’s the best tactics, if everybody agrees, there has to be at least be one person, this voice of dissent, to come up with what would be the problems with this to make sure they’re seeing a full picture. And that’s certainly not something we’re seeing with the US military.


And even on the battlefield with Israel. If you say no to a direct order, you’re not necessarily court-martialed as long as you can give the right moral justification for that. I think Israel does that more than any other nation because Israel went through World War II and saw what Germany did when they had a military they did everything they were told to do and no conscience exemptions, no individuality. 

I think Israel understands the consequences of where that leads if you lose your moral conscience, and you become a military that only takes orders and only follows what they want you to do.

And so that’s just a dangerous place for America to head. And fortunately, Mike has won one this case. And Tim, I think you’re right, this probably keeps going up. I don’t think the administration will let this stop. We’ll see where it ends.


Special thanks to Mike Berry for joining us today. Firstliberty.org to learn more about the good work that they’re doing. And in fact, Mike also helps us with our military Patriot Academy program that’s held at the state capitol of Texas the first week of August. 

So if you’re in the military or former military member, we’d love for you to learn a lot of the things that David and Tim have been talking about today. So come join us on that as well. You can learn more at patriotacademy.com Thanks for listening today to WallBuilders Live.