Supreme Court Rules That Execution of Muslim Inmate Can Proceed in Alabama After He Claimed His Religious Rights Were Being Violated

FILE – This undated file photo from the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Dominique Ray. A federal appeals court has stayed the execution of Ray, a Muslim inmate in Alabama who says the state is violating his religious rights by not allowing an imam at his lethal injection. The 11th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, a day before the scheduled lethal injection of Ray.(Alabama Department of Corrections via AP, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected claims from a Muslim inmate who said his religious rights were being violated, clearing the way for the lethal injection to go forward Thursday (Feb. 7).

In a 5-4 decision, justices vacated a stay issued by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had been blocking the execution of Dominique Ray, 42.

Ray argued Alabama’s execution procedure favors Christian inmates because a Christian chaplain employed by the prison typically remains in the execution chamber during a lethal injection, but the state would not let his imam be present.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent that the dissenting justice considered the decision to let the execution go forward “profoundly wrong.”

Attorneys for the state said Ray had ample opportunity to visit with his imam before his scheduled execution, that only prison employees are allowed in the chamber for security reasons, and that the imam can visit him before he’s led to the execution chamber and witness the execution from an adjoining room.

Prison system spokesman Bob Horton said Ray was visited by his imam both Wednesday and Thursday and that Ray again renewed a request to have the adviser present — the request that has been denied.

Other states generally allow spiritual advisers to accompany condemned inmates up to the execution chamber but not into it, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which studies capital punishment in the United States.

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Source: Religion News Service