Written by Don Byrd

In a new column, Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Amanda Tyler decries the U.S. Supreme Court’s first church-state decision of the 2018-2019 term. In Dunn v. Ray, the Court overturned the 11th Circuit, which had halted an execution in Alabama because of “powerful” religious liberty claims brought by the condemned prisoner. The Supreme Court’s ruling allowed the execution to proceed without resolving those claims, which challenged the Alabama Department of Correction’s policy allowing a Christian minister in the execution chamber, but not an imam.

That cruel decision, Tyler writes, was an “astonishing display of Christian preferentialism that threatens everyone’s religious freedom” Here is an excerpt from her column:

For the state to deny access to one’s spiritual adviser at the moment of death carried out by the state seems to have a crossed a line for a decent civilization.

But, does it also cross a constitutional line? I agree with many church-state lawyers that it does. 

The state of Alabama had already designed a system that allowed for a Christian chaplain to be present to minister to the inmate in his or her last hours, lifting a burden on religious exercise. But of course, that system also implicitly assumes that the person will need a Christian minister. As the Court of Appeals decision succinctly stated, “If Ray were a Christian, he would have a profound benefit; because he is a Muslim, he is denied that benefit.” At the 11th hour, while still denying his request for an imam to be in the room, the state granted Ray’s request to exclude the Christian chaplain. This attempted fix did nothing to protect Ray’s religious freedom rights and instead tried to erase the Christian supremacy inherent in the original policy. 

Read the whole thing.