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April 3, 2019

Following SCOTUS ruling requiring equal access, Texas bans all religious officials from execution chamber

As reported in this local article, "Texas has banned all prison chaplains from its execution chamber, days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state was violating an inmate's rights by not allowing a Buddhist chaplain into the death chamber with him."  Here is more:

The high court last week halted the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the infamous "Texas Seven," because the department did not allow him to have a Buddhist chaplain in the room with him at the time of his scheduled death.  The state only allows prison employees in the death chamber, and only Christian and Muslim clerics are employed with the state. During executions, a chaplain will often stand at the feet of the prisoner and rest a hand on his leg mouthing silent prayers.

The court halted Murphy’s execution hours after it was scheduled to begin, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion declaring that the exclusion of a Buddhist adviser was religious discrimination.  The ruling came less than two months after the same court ruled against stopping the execution of a black prisoner in Alabama who requested a Muslim imam at his execution.  In his opinion, Kavanaugh proposed two alternatives for the Texas prison system: Don’t allow any chaplains into the execution chambers, or allow chaplains of all religions.

Texas has chosen the former option. New execution procedures signed Tuesday say that chaplains and ministers may "observe the execution only from the witness rooms." Currently, friends and family of the murder victims and prisoners, as well as media, are allowed to watch executions through a glass window in small rooms adjacent to the death chamber.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the policy change is effective immediately. "TDCJ Chaplain(s) will continue to be available to an offender until they are transferred to the execution chamber.  The chaplain will also be present in the viewing room if requested," said the spokesman, Jeremy Desel.  Under the policy, prisoners will still be able to meet with a TDCJ chaplain or a spiritual adviser “who has the appropriate credentials” on the day of execution.

Prior related post:

April 3, 2019 at 04:58 PM | Permalink

Comments

And who is surprised by this choice?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 3, 2019 7:22:44 PM

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