WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this morning in Ramirez v. Collier, a case that will decide whether John H. Ramirez will be able to exercise his religious freedom rights by having his pastor pray aloud and lay hands on him as he is put to death by the state of Texas. The court previously postponed Mr. Ramirez’s execution to consider his claims that state officials wrongly denied his final religious requests in violation of federal law.
Mr. Ramirez’s arguments are supported by a group of spiritual advisors and former high-level corrections officials who have collectively witnessed, participated in, or overseen more than 50 executions. In an amicus brief filed on their behalf with the Supreme Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, the group explained the vital role that spiritual advisors have long played in executions both in Texas and beyond, including — in some 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 execution.
Statement from Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief:
“Federal law clearly protects Mr. Ramirez’s right to receive spiritual comfort from his pastor in his final moments. As the spiritual advisors and former corrections officials make clear in our brief, Texas simply has no good reason to deny Mr. Ramirez this last act of critical religious exercise. We hope the Supreme Court will correct this blatant violation of Mr. Ramirez’s religious liberty and order Texas to grant his request.”
The amicus brief from spiritual advisors and corrections officials can be found online here: www.aclu.org/legal-document/ramirez-v-collier-scotus-amicus-brief-spiritual-leaders-and-corrections-officials