Death row prisoners denied access to religious advisors

in November 12th, 2021

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Debate is brewing around the rights of inmates on death row to have a religious figure present. While rules vary by state, most had a rule permitting only Christian leaders.

  • In early 2019, Dominique Ray requested the presence of his Imam (a Muslim religious leader) 10 days ahead of his scheduled execution. Since Alabama only allowed their prison-employed Chaplain, the case was escalated to the Supreme Court who denied it on the grounds that he didn’t file the request early enough.
  • Later that year in Texas, Patrick Murphy requested his Buddhist spiritual leader be present. Texas, at that time, had similar restrictions to Alabama, though in this case the Supreme Court said Texas could not allow certain religious leaders and exclude others. Texas then ruled that no spiritual advisors would be allowed in execution rooms.
  • As other, similar cases arise this year — including in both Alabama and Texas — the Supreme Court has shared their frustrations and urged states to set non-discriminatory policies.

Texas immediately responded by allowing any spiritual advisor in execution rooms, but now new requests are being made. After Texas denied requests to have an inmate’s religious advisor touch them or pray audibly on the day of their execution in August, the case went to the Supreme Court who is currently hearing arguments. An answer is expected next month.

🎬 Take Action

The influx of hearings also has the Supreme Court questioning the use of the death penalty, with some believing they’re unconstitutional. If you agree, the Action Network has a petition urging Congress to abolish the federal death penalty.

Resource Center:

  • Time (Where we found this story) 8 days old | 11 minutes long
  • ProPublica Dominique Ray’s case  2 years old | 57 minutes long
  • Associated Press Patrick Murphy’s case 7 months old | 5 minutes long
  • Vox Frustrated Supreme Court 5 days old | 12 minutes long
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We’re too sad to make a pun about this one :(

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