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.

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dmm

Another failure of government when it comes to religion. But I’m not surprised, looking as where we are today. Government needs to keep its hands out of the pie as much as possible. We don’t live in a country where we have one defined religion. We have freedom of choice and can choose how/what to believe, as well as how to worship, and if we want to worship. The more government doesn’t watch its boundaries, the closer we come to letting more things slide and then “Oh, who cares?” This is why we need to continue to push for separation of church and state.

Anonymous

Islam wants the church and state unified so in a way the Supreme Court actually is separating them by carring out the sentence without the interference of church...

Anonymous

To much concern about people who have gotten the death penalty ...... a bullet in their head immediately after the sentencing would do everyone a favor

Ron Hamilton

You left so much out of this story and most people will take you at your word. NO integrity ACLU. The contribution I once made to ACLU now goes to FIRE. They have much more integrity.

Anonymous

That’s what happens when a rapist fungus infestation is elected to the Supreme Court.

Anonymousjackie

Alabama is not a religious state as they claim!! The are very rude people

Is this a joke?

I wonder what the family of the 15 year old he kidnapped, raped, and murdered thinks?

Anonymous

Thank you! Upside down mentality!!!!!

Anonymous

Kinda left that piece out of your bleeding heart article. Mirderer with blood on his hands is the victim. You people are demented.

Anonymous

He's already been sentenced to death. Justice has been served; the girl's death has been avenged, if vengeance is what you're after. But this is not a question of vengeance, it is a question of justice, a fundamental difference I think you've totally missed. Domineque Ray deserved to die, that I believe wholeheartedly, but he also deserved to die with the same level of dignity as every Christian white man on death row who raped and murdered a young girl (because you know there's more than one). That he was not afforded the same level of human respect at his death, that he could not have his religious advisor present as a final comfort when they COULD, is simply wrong. He deserved death, and he got it, and if you want you can argue that he didn't deserve to have a religious advisor present at all. But if you're going to argue that, you must also argue that every Christian white citizen sentenced to death for a similar crime also does not deserve to have their religious advisor present EITHER.

The question at hand isn't whether Ray deserved what he got, because I think we can all agree he did. The question is whether he deserved to be treated with an even lower level of humanity than everybody else on death row- which he didn't.

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