Religion, Death Row, and SCOTUS

Sunday , 3, April 2022 8 Comments

This week’s topic focuses on the US Supreme Court’s recent 8-1 ruling regarding the process for executing death row inmates in the State of Texas. The ARTICLE focuses on Ramirez v Collier, a case that involved a death row inmates request to have his pastor lay hands on him and pray out loud during his execution. The questions of religious freedoms of criminal justice offenders are complex, as courts have to weigh offenders’ rights with security and disciplinary concerns of prisons/jails. Ramirez v Collier seems less difficult, however, since it was an 8-1 vote.


8 thoughts on “ : Religion, Death Row, and SCOTUS”
  • Abigail Hendrix says:

    I think it can be really easy sometimes to forget that inmates/criminals are also people that have rights, but it is important to take their rights/arguments seriously. As many argued allowing the pastor/spiritual advisor to stand a few feet closer should really not increase the danger, especially if the pastor/spiritual advisor feels comfortable doing so. Roberts mentions that as with anything else there can be reasonable restrictions instated such as ensuring the prayer is done at a reasonable volume. I also do not think it is fair to try to reduce the argument to a strategy used to delay execution, as Judd Stone argued. While religion may be meaningless to some, to others it is a crucial aspect of their life and I do not think it is that hard to recognize and respect that. Overall I really don’t see how what they are asking for could be a problem as long as reasonable restrictions are clearly implemented.

  • Cailey Russell says:

    If you received a punishment of the death sentence, you have no authority or privilege to demand what you want. Yes, they are still a person, but they don’t deserve to have special privileges during their punishment. In this case, the person that he killed didn’t get to have a pastor pray over them, while they were dying. He fled and left to country and his crime, giving that victim and their family no closure for over three years. He does not deserve any privileges; he should have thought about his consequences before killing and robbing people. They still are able to practice their religious beliefs, but don’t deserve any special circumstances around their religious beliefs.

  • Jenna Roesler says:

    I’m not exactly sure what to think of this case. There are laws in place that still protect religious freedom for prisoners, regardless of if they are on death row. I do not practice any religious beliefs so it’s a little hard me to wrap my head around what the big difference is between having religious accommodation standing three feet away and having them standing next to you touching you. However, even though I don’t understand it, I can still believe that this is part of Ramirez’s religion. I don’t know if he was scheming for extra time before his execution like Judge Clarence Thomas thought, but if there are laws protecting prisoners of religious freedom on death row, then I feel like having a religious figure touching you in your last moments should also be protected. I don’t see a huge difference between the two, especially if safety is not a concern.

  • Emma Ciriacks says:

    My views are very mixed on this case and I am not sure how to think. There are laws still in place that protect the religious rights of an inmate, it states ” The current policy in Texas is to allow a pastor in the chamber, but the pastor cannot speak up or physically touch the inmate.” In this case the inmate wants his pastor to say a prayer and “lay hands” on him during the execution but if this actually happens how is this fair to previous inmates who weren’t allowed to have that. He is on death row, been in prison for multiple years and now he gets special privilege? I honestly don’t think he deserves any special privilege, his crime was horrible and even tried to escape away from it so no, I don’t think they should allow this, he can stick with the current policy that is having the pastor just standing in the room. I really like what was previously commented that the person he killed didn’t get a pastor praying over them so why should he.

  • Lindsay Paulus says:

    For me, this case is a bit difficult when deciding what to do. Yes, while religious rights of inmates should be protected, there is only so much that is allowed. Personally, I don’t think that he deserves the special privilege from the pastor because of the crimes he committed and the harm he caused the family of the victim. I think that the current policy works just fine for this case of being able to have the pastor in the room. While this could have just been a ploy to delay the execution, he does not deserve any special treatment.

  • Jenna Onley says:

    I’m not quit sure how to feel or think about this case. Yes, he is human and he deserves to be treated like one and be able to have inmate’s rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. But another thought of mine is that he doesn’t deserve the special treatment of the pastor being able to touch him and read something for him. He did a horrible thing and shouldn’t get special treatment compared to everyone else. Everyone should just follow the law of at least being able to have a pastor in the room. I don’t really see how it makes a difference if the pastor is touching him or standing 3 feet away from him.

  • Rachel Sluga says:

    I am unsure what to think about this case, I think that it is improper for a religious leader to touch the death row inmate when he/she is going to die but I think it is also perfectly fine that they are in-sight on the inmate (even if that is in the same room or though bars/window) they should be allowed to talk to the inmate about religion to help ease the inmate only. Other than that I dont know.

  • Logan Braasch says:

    The First and Eighth Amendments clashed in the Huntsville execution chamber. On one hand, this religious action had been proposed based on the freedom of religion. While on another hand, the process itself has been criticized as cruel and unusual. The dissenting judge did not provide sufficiently substantial argument for why Ramirez’s request would create a heightened risk to security; rather, he argued that the request was not much more than a “stall tactic” and revisited the details of his crime. Justice Clarence Thomas also denoted the “recurrent emotional injuries” to the victim’s family, while ignoring the double standard imposed by the endless appeals brought by the death penalty itself. Justice Thomas suggested Ramirez was manipulating RLUIPA—a civil rights law the Department of Justice says protects the religious freedoms of persons confined to prisons. I wonder if Justice Thomas has considered why he was the only judge to dissent. Justice Roberts—who wrote for the majority, as well as Ramirez’s attorney—were both justified in citing the refusal to allow the pastor’s presence and physical contact “substantially burdens his exercise of religion” while noting the death penalty’s “rich history” of religious ceremony dating back well before the death penalty was even enacted into law. With how largely inconsequential the pastor’s presence would be, while how controversial lethal injection is, it is not surprising only one judge dissented (should we call that a valid dissent). It appears to me he just wanted to add onto Ramirez’s sentence and deprive him of RLUIPA.

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