Dec. 30 (UPI) — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that Oklahoma National Guard members must get vaccinated against COVID-19, denying a request from the state’s governor to block a federal mandate.
Judge Stephen Friot of the Western District of Oklahoma denied Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request for an injunction against the requirement, ruling that the Biden administration was “acting well within the authority granted by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” in issuing the mandate.
Stitt wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in November stating that the mandate “violates the personal freedoms” of some National Guard members.
He also asserted that as commander in chief of the state’s National Guard that he could refuse the military’s vaccine requirement.
Earlier this month, governors from Texas, Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska also issued challenges asserting the Pentagon does not have the authority to issue COVID-19 mandates for state National Guard units.
Friot ruled that members of the National Guard must meet federal military readiness requirements, including vaccine requirements.
“However wide-ranging the command authority of the Governor and the Adjutant General may be within the four corners of their own state … it is unmistakably clear that the intent of Congress, as expressed in the text of its enactments, is that the Guard and its members will at all events be prepared, conformably to federal military standards, to be ordered into federal service, deploying alongside members of active duty Army and Air Force, on little or no notice, anywhere in the world — which is exactly what the Oklahoma Guard and its members have done, with great distinction, on dozens of occasions,” Friot wrote.
The judge also noted that National Guard members are already required to receive multiple other immunizations.
“Adding a tenth … vaccine to the list of nine that all service members are already required to take would hardly amount to ‘an enormous and transformative expansion [of the] regulatory authority’ the Secretary of Defense already possesses,” he wrote.