WASHINGTON, DC, May 13, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – U.S. Coast Guard officials who initially refused to excuse an officer from being injected with a vaccine derived from an aborted child have relented in the wake of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the officer by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys. The U.S. Coast Guard had refused to grant an exemption for Officer Joseph J. Healy, who is Catholic, even though it allows exemptions based on other religious beliefs.

“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 same freedom as anyone else not to have their particular beliefs disregarded,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.

“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 preborn 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 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, a higher ranking officer 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.”

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 Jan. 2, Healy v. United States Coast Guard (www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=4348).