ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Religious Freedom Rights of Individual on Death Row

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
September 28, 2021 9:00 am

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WASHINGTON — In a Supreme Court amicus brief filed yesterday by the ACLU and the law firm Williams & Connolly LLP, a group of spiritual leaders who have been present in the death chamber during executions and former high-level corrections officials who have collectively witnessed or overseen more than 50 executions argues that Texas should allow John H. Ramirez’s pastor to pray aloud and lay hands on him as he is executed. The Supreme Court recently postponed Mr. Ramirez’s execution to consider his claims that state officials wrongly denied his final religious requests in violation of federal law.

The ACLU amicus brief explains the vital role that spiritual advisors have long played in executions both in Texas and beyond, including — in many instances — praying audibly and physically touching their advisees to provide spiritual comfort and a final opportunity to connect with their faith. The spiritual advisors’ and corrections officials’ own experiences, recounted in the brief, show that Texas can safely accommodate Mr. Ramirez’s last religious requests without jeopardizing the integrity of the execution.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Nov. 1.

Statement from David Cole, national legal director, ACLU:
“As Mr. Ramirez faces his final moments, Texas must grant his reasonable request to accommodate his sincere religious beliefs. It’s unconscionable that the state is denying him the ability to practice his faith for a final time, at the most critically spiritual moment imaginable, for no good reason. As the spiritual advisors and corrections officials point out in the brief, their experiences witnessing and overseeing executions make clear that any security concerns can easily be addressed. Texas’s refusal to allow him this last act of religious exercise is cruel, unnecessary, and a blatant violation of religious freedom.”

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