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Texas executions face delays in religious rights claims.

HOUSTON (AP) – Executions in the country’s busiest death row state have been delayed amid legal questions over Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch prisoners and pray out loud.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The court stayed his execution last month, three hours after his execution. Several other detainees have since made similar claims, and courts have overturned some of them.

“It would be unusual for someone with the same problem not to get a seat while the Supreme Court is deciding the case,” said Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Will be.

The Supreme Court decision could take months. It is set to hear oral arguments on November 1.

Ramirez says the state is violating his religious freedom by allowing his religious adviser not to touch him and to pray out loud. Texas prison officials say direct contact is a threat to security and that saying prayers out loud can be disruptive.

The latest delay was for Stephen Barbie. She was due to be hanged on Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Kenneth White in Houston ruled Thursday that Barbie had initially imposed “heavy restrictions on the use of her religion in the execution chamber of Texas.”

Barbie’s lawyer, Richard Ellis, said in an email Friday: “I am very grateful for the execution in Mr. Barbie’s case as it will give the court time to review these important issues of religious rights.”

Courts have already granted leave at the request of the prosecution to two other detainees – Robin Gutierrez, scheduled for October 27, and Fabian Hernandez, scheduled for November 3. Kosol Chanthaquman on November 10 and Ramiro Gonzalez, who is scheduled to be hanged on November 17, are making similar claims of religious freedom, which could delay his lethal injection.

Texas has seen a spike in executions over the past two years, largely due to the Cove 19 epidemic, with only three fatal injections last year and three so far this year. In contrast, Texas executed 13 in 2018 and nine in 2019.

Texas and Missouri are the only states to execute prisoners during epidemics, two in Missouri. Under the Trump administration, the federal government executed 13 prisoners in the same period. Both Oklahoma and Alabama were executed later this year.

The Supreme Court has dealt with the presence of spiritual advisers in the death chamber in recent years but has not given a final verdict. Prisoners are referring to the First Amendment to the Constitution, as well as the Federal Law of 2000, which protects the religious rights of prisoners.

The High Court review came after the Texas prison system in April lifted a two-year ban on spiritual counselors in the death chamber but limited what they could do. Texas imposed the ban after the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Patrick Murphy in 2019, arguing that his religious freedom was being violated because his Buddhist spiritual adviser had to accompany him. Was not allowed Murphy is on death row.

The decision in Murphy’s case came after a court criticized Alabama prisoner Dominic Ray for refusing to stop the execution at the request of his Islamic spiritual adviser in the death chamber.

In a statement filed Monday in federal court in Barbie’s case, Bobby Lampkin, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Correctional Institutions Division, suggested that a spiritual counselor may try to release a prisoner or arrange for a lethal injection. Can stretch nerves. Limpkin also said that audible prayers could prevent prison officials from hearing about what went wrong.

“Because there are many (of the prison system) on the death row who are extremely violent, unpredictable and dangerous prisoners who have nothing to lose by trying to escape or being held hostage and attacked, the rule against physical contact Increases the safety of the institution and protects visitors and staff, “Lampkin said.

Last month, Alabama agreed as part of a settlement to allow the pastor of death row inmate Willie Smith to hold his hand and pray with him during the October 21 execution.

J. Patrick Hornbeck II, a professor of theology at Fordham University in New York, said the Supreme Court would consider balancing the state’s legitimate interest in security with the prisoners’ ability to practice their religion.

“It will be a real test of the consistency that judges bring to the question of how they deal with such claims of religious freedom when taken up by prisoners convicted of heinous crimes. But who is looking for peace in the last moments of their lives, ”said Hornbeck.

Michael Michelin, a law professor at Peace University in New York, said the Supreme Court would probably rule on two specific issues: whether spiritual advisers could pray out loud and whether they could touch a prisoner. He said it was unclear whether the court would issue a broader verdict that would do everything in the spiritual adviser’s execution chamber.

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