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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Sinai Chira

His stay of execution was refused because he filed late, no more, no less.

"On November 6, 2018, the State scheduled Domineque Ray’s execution date for February 7, 2019. Because Ray waited until January 28, 2019 to seek relief, we grant the State’s application to vacate the stay entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. See Gomez v. United States Dist. Court for Northern Dist. of Cal., 503 U. S. 653, 654 (1992) (per curiam) (“A court may consider the last-minute nature of an application to stay execution in deciding whether to grant equitable relief.”

Trying to make a procedural issue a moral issue is an eye roll at best.

Anonymous

This is not about the criminal ! We all agree he was a terrible guy!! This about him being treated differently then other criminals because of his religion!!!

Anonymous

Wondering did he allow his victims their last rites or prayers?

Denise Smith

This brought tears to my eyes. I do not understand how this could happen.. Just because a certain populace has a majority belief, it does not mean they have the only RIGHT BELIEF. These differences are cultural...and never will be changed...but should be respected. Belief in an Almighty-something greater than oneself and a route to forgiveness (a Savior) is everyone's right. I am sure that this man's belief would sustain him in his last moments. AND LOOK AT WHAT OUR SUPREME COURT DID! There are 5 people who should be ashamed of themselves and 4 who tried. THINK!

MSV

The decision is wrong.
I would support having no religions represented during execution or allow all religions representation but not one religion only represented.

Gwen Claassen

I am much more concerned about our barbaric use of the death penalty.

Eileen Simonson

The state should have planned for his faith when the date was set. This is egregious discrimination.

Anonymous

I guess he won't be getting any virgins in the after life in Hell.

Antonio

Who is the barbarian now? Putting a man or woman to death, with or without religious counsel, is the sign of the devil. Anyone involved, from the apprehension to the sentencing to the execution, is unmitigated evil. I am ashamed of being a citizen of this barbaric country.

OOBC

Not a good president to say the least. Another example of democratic erosion.

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