The conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court thought to execute a man on time was more important than safeguarding his religious liberties before he passed on.
Dominque Ray is a person who does not deserve tears to be shed. He was executed in Alabama on February 7 for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville in 1995.
The subject of capital punishment is one of profound debate in this country with regards to if it should be allowed, if so when it should be administered, what method should be employed to execute the prisoner, and whether this ultimate penalty is equally and fairly distributed according to demographics?
Those issues are not the subject of this piece.
What is the subject of this article is that Ray was denied his religious rights and freedoms days before his execution when the warden and officials at the prison he was incarcerated at denied his request, on January 23, 2019, to have his Moslem Imam present for security reasons.
Ray’s lawyer appealed to the courts to have the Imam present. The Federal Appeals Court agreed to stay the execution because Alabama had violated the “establishment clause” and the prisoner’s freedom of religion.
Alabama, the state that has given this country wonderful representations of humanity like George Wallace and Roy Moore, appealed the Federal Appeals Court Decision to the United States Supreme Court who, in a 5-4 ruling, said that Ray’s lawyer did not file the request for the Imam early enough and removed the stay of execution. Ray was executed with no clergy in the gas chamber on Thursday, while his Imam waited along with other individuals while posing no threat, in the witness room.
What can people say about the “common sense attitude” of the Alabama criminal and legal system to deny a person’s last rights to die with his clergy present? Did they really believe one Imam, with many prison guards on duty, would disrupt the execution and threaten anyone? What can people say about the funds wasted to argue, before various courts, that the Imam could not be allowed to move a few feet into the actual execution room?
What can people say about the Supreme Court, as this conservative majority has, as the below video link from the Rachel Maddow show reminded people, narrowly allowed bakers to discriminate against homosexual couples or retail outlets who wanted to deny their employees birth control access through health insurance all under the guise of religious freedom? Does their ruling regarding Ray imply that they will only give consideration to the religious freedom of Christians?
This country was founded in part that all people could exercise their religious liberties. In their mania to impose “an eye for an eye,” the members of the Alabama legal system and conservative majority of United States Supreme Court forgot that non-Christians are entitled to the same freedoms and considerations as anyone else. To say that timing was an issue is insulting. Ray had been on death row for 20 years. What would a few days more have mattered to hear the case and render a decision? Their decision may set a disturbing legal precedent.
Then again, would have it been too much for the warden in that prison to do the Christian and right thing and let the Imam in the chamber like other clerics are when someone requests that when they are about to pass on.
This event reinforces that voters, unlike in 2016, need to turn out in greater numbers and vote for the candidates (presidential and congressional) that will promote the basic civil rights for all Americans instead of staying complacent at home or even wasting their vote on third party candidates that will not ultimately prevail. This court decision just proves too much is at stake to stand idly by. The momentum of the 2018 midterms needs to carry on to 2020 and beyond.