In Alabama, a Muslim Man Was Denied the Presence of His Imam During His Execution

Domineque Ray was pronounced dead last night at 10:12 p.m. Thirty minutes prior, his execution by lethal injection began.

His last words were a proclamation of his Muslim faith in Arabic. But Ray’s imam was missing from the room, despite Ray’s repeated requests to the state for his imam’s presence. In the days leading up to his death, Ray was also denied access to a Quran, though the state ultimately complied with an order to provide the holy text.

Less than two hours before Ray was executed, the Supreme Court narrowly decided to allow the execution to proceed without his religious advisor in the chamber. This ruling was handed down despite the fact that Christian prisoners are routinely accompanied by chaplains during their final moments. In fact, as the BBC reported, the “Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) employs a Christian chaplain who has been in the execution room for nearly every execution since 1997.”

The vote was 5-4 along party lines. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan described the decision as “profoundly wrong,” writing:

“Under [the state’s] policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion — whether Islam, Judaism, or any other — he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side. That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality. Here, Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the State puts him to death. The Eleventh Circuit wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this Court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the State can meet its preferred execution date.”

Ray was denied his religious liberty because he is a member of a minority faith, Islam, that has faced considerable hostility and discrimination in recent years. The court ultimately prioritized purported scheduling procedures at the expense of his civil rights at a time in which he was most vulnerable, while the ADOC prioritized one religion over another.

The state of Alabama has a constitutional responsibility to preserve the dignity and equality of the people it puts to death. The state failed that test last night with five justices of the Supreme Court approving its decision.

View comments (52)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

Well, that’s the dissent.... you know the part that isn’t law.

Nola300

You know what else is a dissent? Opposition to Roe v. Wade. You know, the part that isn’t the law?

Art

i guess we should not be surprised at Alabama. if there is a heaven and a hell, i think there will be as lot of surprised people in hell.

Harry Hurd

This seems so obviously wrong. What is their justification? What can be done to correct this?

Anonymous

Islam is the only religion that that is pretty much written in black and white saying kill all non believers of alla

Anonymous

Most of the saints of the early Christian church were put to death by a sovereign ruler. I don't think that was written in their laws but were just acted upon.

Anonymous

2 Chronicles 15:12-13. The Bible says the same thing.

Anonymous

Obviously you know nothing about Islam which in fact says if you kill one innocent life its as if you killed all humanity (that includes non-believers) PS Im a Muslim!!!!

Anonymous

I guess you never heard about the Crusades or maybe you think that it stopped.

Anonymous

Woo hoo. Yipee!!

Pages

Stay Informed