COAST GUARD OFFICIALS BACKED DOWN in the face of pressure from a pro-life law firm that recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Coast Guard officer who, officials told him, must submit to a vaccine that was derived based on fetal tissue from abortions.
Officer Joseph Healy said the vaccine's derivation violates his pro-life moral and religious beliefs.
Coast Guard officials who initially refused to excuse an officer from the injection relented after the Alliance Defense Fund filed the suit.
On Friday, the Coast Guard notified the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that it will grant Healy a religious exemption. As a result, ADF attorneys plan to file a motion to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit they filed for Healy in January.
“Christians shouldn't be punished for abiding by their beliefs against abortion. The Coast Guard has done the right thing in recognizing that those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same freedom as anyone else not to have their particular beliefs disregarded," ADF attorney Matt Bowman told LifeNews.com.
“Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and adhering to the belief that health and medicine can prosper without exploiting the killing of pre-born children,” Bowman said.
In May 2006, the Coast Guard, which requires its personnel to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases, ordered all active-duty personnel to receive one of two vaccines against Hepatitis A or show proof of immunity.
The vaccines are derived from cells taken from the lung tissue of a child who was electively aborted at 14 weeks gestation and then dissected.
The U.S. Coast Guard allows religious exemptions for those who hold a "religious tenet or belief contrary to immunization."
In compliance with Coast Guard requirements, Healy, a lieutenant commander, submitted a memo requesting religious exemption based on his Catholic faith and strong opposition to abortion.
In response, Capt. Brent Pennington denied the request because he disagreed with Healy’s theology, claiming that Catholic teaching "does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church."
With the denial, Healy could have been forced, under threat of severe penalty, to receive the immunization against his will. ADF attorneys had also filed a motion to prevent that from occurring while the lawsuit moved forward.
"Those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same religious freedoms as anyone else," Bowman concluded. "Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and honoring their faith." [13May08, Ertelt, LifeNews.com, DC]
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