S3, Ep. 02: Out of the shadows and into the courtroom: Religion in the execution chamber

Holly and Amanda talk about death penalty cases at the Supreme Court and preview Ramirez v. Collier

Oct 28, 2021

The Supreme Court is about to hear arguments in a type of case it usually addresses in its emergency or “shadow” docket: Questions surrounding clergy and religious exercise in the execution chamber. Amanda and Holly review the issue by considering cases over the past few years, including how the justices have shifted over time, with strong words from Justice Elena Kagan and the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. In segment two, they dive into the first religious liberty case the Court will hear oral arguments this term in Ramirez v. Collier (starting at 14:50), including the statute at the heart of the case: RLUIPA. In segment three, Amanda and Holly step back to discuss their personal experiences visiting death row early in their legal careers.

Show notes:

Segment 1: Recapping the past few years of clergy in the death chamber (starting at 00:51)

Visit the website of the Death Penalty Information Center for statistics and research around the death penalty and its application.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act is often abbreviated “RLUIPA.” Learn more at BJConline.org/RLUIPA.

Visit the latest news section of our website to read about previous Supreme Court cases involving clergy in the execution chamber.

Amanda Tyler wrote a 2019 column for Religion News Service about the different outcomes in the Dunn v. Ray (Alabama) and Murphy v. Collier (Texas) cases. Read it at this link


Segment 2: SCOTUS takes a case about clergy in the execution chamber on its regular docket  (starting at 14:50)

BJC joined this brief in the Ramirez v. Collier case with the Christian Legal Society and other groups. Read more on our website.

Holt v. Hobbs was a 2015 case regarding a Muslim inmate’s request to grow a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his faith. Learn more at BJConline.org/HoltvHobbs.  

Segment three: Personal reflections on visiting death row (starting at 28:10)

To learn more about the abolition of the death penalty in Virginia, check out this piece by Dakin Andone for CNN: Why Virginia’s abolition of the death penalty is a big deal for the state and the US 

Amanda read from this piece by Elizabeth Bruenig for The Atlantic: The State of Texas v. Jesus Christ

Linda Greenhouse asked the question “Why did the Supreme Court stop this particular execution?” in the New York Times.

Adamp Liptak previewed the Ramirez case for the New York Times in this article: Supreme Court Stays Execution in Dispute Over Pastor’s Role in Death Chamber


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