"Execution Chamber, Florida" by Florida Department of Corrections/Doug Smith / Public Domain

Texas bans chaplains from its execution chamber

Apr 4, 2019

By Jolie McCullough and Elizabeth Byrne

The state of Texas has banned all prison chaplains from its execution chamber, days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state could not execute an inmate without allowing a Buddhist chaplain into the death chamber with him.

The high court last week halted the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the infamous “Texas Seven,” after Murphy claimed that the state was violating his religious rights by not allowing him to have a Buddhist chaplain in the room with him at the time of his scheduled death. The state only allows prison employees in the death chamber, and only Christian and Muslim clerics are employed with the state. During executions, a chaplain will often stand at the feet of the prisoner and rest a hand on his leg mouthing silent prayers.

The court stopped Murphy’s execution hours after it was scheduled to begin, ruling Texas could not execute him until his late appeal was considered unless the state provided a Buddhist spiritual adviser in the execution chamber. The ruling came less than two months after the same court decided against stopping the execution of a black prisoner in Alabama who requested a Muslim imam at his execution. Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion declaring that the exclusion of a Buddhist adviser was religious discrimination and proposed two alternatives for the Texas prison system: Don’t allow any chaplains into the execution chambers, or allow chaplains of all religions.

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