September 22, 2021 06:50

Texas Ends Policy of Barring Clergy from Execution Chamber

After two years of barring all spiritual advisers from the state’s execution chamber, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced a new policy allowing the condemned to be accompanied by a spiritual adviser of their choosing at the time of death, provided the adviser passes a routine security and background check, reports the Dallas Morning News. The controversy began back in March 2019 when the TDCJ denied convicted murderer and one of the infamous “Texas Seven,” Patrick Murphy, his request to have a Buddhist spiritual adviser in the execution chamber. At the time, the state policy was that only TDCJ-employed chaplains — either Christian or Muslim — were allowed in the chamber. Murphy argued that was religious discrimination. The Supreme Court agreed, halting Murphy’s execution and suggesting one of two remedies: Either allow all spiritual advisers — regardless of faith or religious affiliation — into the execution chamber; or allow none. The TDCJ chose the latter remedy and barred all spiritual advisers from the execution chamber. While Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion at the time, “governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution,” critics disagree that barring all religious advisers was a valid or constitutional remedy

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