Supreme Court assesses religious accommodations during executions

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday examined the types of spiritual accommodation that prisons are needed to provide to death row inmates during execution, with some judges looking puzzled as to how to define the scope of inmate rights.

The dispute pitted the religious rights of those condemned to death in their last moments of life against the interest of the prison authorities in carrying out executions efficiently and with minimal risk of interference.

The case in court on Tuesday involved John Ramirez, who was sentenced to death for a brutal 2004 murder, and who claims Texas is about to execute him in a way that would violate his religious rights.

Ramirez challenged religious freedom after Texas refused to allow his spiritual advisor, Dana Moore, to lay hands on him and pray audibly during his execution, with Ramirez appealing to the Supreme Court after losing in court. lower courts.

Under a 2000 law known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA, prison officers are prohibited from seriously interfering with a prisoner’s religious rights unless they are they cannot meet a strict legal standard.

Ramirez argues that Texas has failed to cross this high legal bar both because it lacks adequate legal justification to ban the laying on of hands and audible prayer, and its blanket ban is much too radical.

Judd Stone, the Texas solicitor general, told judges that allowing Pastor Ramirez to lay his hands on him and pray aloud inside the execution chamber would create an unacceptable risk given the potential harm in Game.

“A tiny amount of risk can lead to a situation that would create intolerable pain for an inmate or an intolerable amount to relive the suffering for the victim’s family,” he said.

Texas has warned that allowing the laying on of hands could inadvertently interfere with the IV lines used in the lethal injection and that the audible prayer could interfere with the ability of authorities to monitor the procedure. The state also said the changing details of Ramirez’s request suggest his real goal is to delay his execution rather than provide spiritual direction at the time of his death.

Several judges have expressed concern that a ruling in favor of Ramirez would prompt other death row inmates to challenge their executions on increasingly broad religious grounds.

“What you have said so far suggests to me that we can expect an endless stream of variation,” Justice Samuel alitoSamuel Alito Supreme Court Appears To Be Mistrustful Of Gun Limits In New York Will The Supreme Court Allow Constitutional Control To Be Thwarted By Texas Abortion Law? Has the Supreme Court been infected with Trump long syndrome? FOLLOWING said to Ramirez’s lawyer, Seth Kretzer. “You told us you would be satisfied if Pastor Moore touched Mr. Ramirez’s foot.”

“But what will happen when the next prisoner says I have a religious belief that he should touch my knee. He should hold my hand. He should put his hand on my heart. He should be able to put his hand on my head, ”continued Alito. “Are we going to have to go through a whole human anatomy with a series of cases?”

A decision in the case, Ramirez v. Collier, is expected by the end of June.


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