Monday, February 11, 2019

SCOTUS on religious freedom: final prayer v. cake maker

Domineque Ray died at 10:12 p.m. Thursday night, by lethal injection at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. The execution was allowed to proceed after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay it, reported Slate. The request for the stay came via a religious argument—the prison’s policy only allowed a Christian chaplain into the execution chamber. Ray’s attorneys argued this policy violated his religious freedoms—Ray was Muslim.
By a 5–4 vote, the court vacated the stay. As NPR later reported, the Christian chaplain was not in the execution chamber, at Ray’s request. He died with his imam, Yusef Maisonet, witnessing from an adjoining chamber. Maisonet said there are prayers required of a Muslim before he dies. Maisonet told, “We want to make sure his last words are, ‘There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.’ ” He was not permitted to so do.
The injury to a death row inmate who may not have the spiritual adviser of his choosing is seemingly lesser than the injury to the state that needs to kill him immediately. This is a court that has staked its moral legitimacy on the proposition that religion, above all, is at the very core of humanity, to be elevated in all instances no matter the competing interests. In so many faiths, there is no more sacred moment than entry and departure from this life.
But never mind. For a court that cannot bear the thought of a religious baker forced to frost a cake in violation of his spiritual convictions to be wholly unaffected at the prospect of a man given last rites by a member of another faith borders on staggering. The court that had no problem with a transparently anti-Muslim immigration ban, promised and performed as an anti-religious measure, looks more and more like it has two standards for protecting religious liberty.
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