February 20, 2019
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Alabama to execute Domineque Ray, a convicted murderer. Ray, who converted to Islam, had appealed to the Supreme Court after the State of Alabama denied his request to have an imam at his side as he was killed. The State, in its beneficence, had offered to have a Christian prison chaplain present, but Ray demurred and sought relief from the highest court in the land. None was forthcoming, as a 5-4 majority (you can guess who voted on which side) denied his request to consider the matter.
In her dissent, Justice Kagan noted that the practice plainly violated the constitution’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from favoring one religion over another. “How would [the majority] have responded,” she asked, “if all the facts were the same but Ray were a Christian?”
For that matter, if, as the Court recently decided, “freedom of religion” means you can refuse to bake and sell a cake to a gay couple because it offends your religious sensibilities, perhaps it should also mean that you have the right to the spiritual adviser of your chosen faith at the scene of your execution.