A Muslim prisoner awaiting execution for rape and murder in Alabama lost a court appeal that claimed that his religious rights were being violated by not allowing his spiritual prayer adviser (imam) to be present during his execution, according to the ABA Journal. com
Domineque Ray was put to death after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated his stay of execution by Alabama’s lower courts. Ray wanted the state to allow a local imam at his execution, not the Christian chaplain, who worked for the state.
The state contended that the imam did not work for the state and was not familiar with the stages that lead up to the execution, the article stated. The highest court in the country agreed with the state in a five to four decision.
“Domineque was a devout Muslim and a human being. He was a son, a father, a brother,” Spencer Hahn, Ray’s attorney, told AL.com after the execution. “He wanted equal treatment in his last moments.
“I am beyond appalled at the willingness of [Alabama Attorney General] Steve Marshall and the state of Alabama to treat a human being differently because he was part of a religious minority. We are better than this,” Hahn added in his statement.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the minority on the bench, which agreed with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Alabama Department of Corrections favors Christian prisoners, according to the article.
“Nevertheless, in the face of this limited record, it looks substantially likely to us that Alabama has run afoul of the establishment clause of the First Amendment,” the 11th U.S. Circuit opinion stated. “Under that policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites.”
In her dissent Kagan wrote, “But if an inmate practices a different religion— whether Islam, Judaism, or any other—he may not die with a minister of his faith by his side. That treatment goes against the establishment clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”
The majority of the Supreme Court justices agreed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama that cited that Ray waited until the “eleventh hour,” though he had the last 12 years to “seek a religious exemption,” according to the article.
Ray died of lethal injection in early February. He spoke his last words in Arabic, the language of his faith.