Barksdale Airman Faith Crocker files lawsuit against COVID military vaccine mandate
SHREVEPORT — Barksdale Air Force Base Senior Airman Faith Crocker filed a lawsuit here Monday in federal court to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military members, saying it violates her religious freedom.
The Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a conservative-leaning think tank in Louisiana, is representing Crocker in Louisiana U.S. Western District Court at the Tom Stagg U.S. District Courthouse.
Crocker's refusal to take the vaccine could result in her being drummed out of the U.S. Air Force without an honorable discharge, which she said would end her service, education and career dreams.
"This could derail my whole life and crush my dreams," said Crocker, 21, who has been in the U.S. Air Force three years.
Similar cases have already had some success with temporary injunctions against the mandate issued by federal judges in Florida and Texas, but Crocker's is the first test case in Louisiana.
"We're here to fight for her freedom and faith," said Crocker's attorney James Baehr.
Republican 4th District Congressman Mike Johnson of Benton was also on hand to support Crocker.
"There is no compelling government interest to trample on sincerely held religious beliefs of these service members in cases like this," Johnson said.
Johnson was among a group of 47 members of Congress who supported a number of U.S. Navy service members through an amicus brief in a similar case in Texas.
Crocker, who is a member of the Southern Baptist denomination and whose father is a Baptist minister, said God doesn't want her to take the vaccine if she's unsure about its safety.
"My God doesn't want me to put anything in my body that I'm unsure of," she said. "I've prayed about this for hours and hours."
Crocker said she has taken other vaccines like the flu shot that she believes are safe. She said Southern Baptist leaders haven't told members of the denomination not to take the vaccine, but that each person of faith must follow her convictions.
"It's strictly between me and God," said Crocker, who is a member of a crew that loads weapons on Barksdale's B-52 bombers.
The vaccine mandate for military personnel was put in place in August 2021 with a deadline of Sept. 15. In December, the U.S. Air Force announced it had discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Crocker's lawsuit.
Crocker said she wants to make a career out of the military with dreams of becoming an officer, a pilot and a chaplain, but if she's discharged she wouldn't be able to continue her education without the military benefits.
"I love my job and the people I work with," Crocker said. "That's why I'm fighting to stay."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.