WASHINGTON, DC — The following statement is from Muslim Advocates’ Interim Legal Director Sirine Shebaya on the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the execution of a Buddhist inmate because the state of Texas sought to deny him a Buddhist chaplain in his final moments, but would have allowed chaplains of other faiths present. This decision marks a departure from a similar case last month wherein the court allowed the state of Alabama to execute a Muslim inmate without having a Muslim chaplain by his side:
“People of all religions should be able to practice their faith, especially in the final moments of their lives. Texas was clearly wrong in trying to deny that basic dignity and right to this plaintiff.
Though the Supreme Court made the right call in this case, it failed to offer these same basic religious liberty protections to a Muslim death row inmate, just last month, when it allowed Alabama to execute Dominique Ray without honoring his request to have a Muslim imam by his side. In both cases, a state wrongly tried to ban an inmate’s chosen religious representative while allowing chaplains of other religions to be present. Yet, the outcomes were so different as one plaintiff was a Muslim and the other was not.
This double standard is yet another example of the Supreme Court’s inexplicable indifference to the rights of Muslims. This past summer, the court also decided in Trump v. Hawaii to uphold the Trump administration’s overtly discriminatory Muslim Ban while allowing a Christian baker to deny services to an LGBTQ couple under the guise of religious freedom in Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Although we applaud the decision to stay execution in this case, we cannot ignore that the Supreme Court has repeatedly looked past crystal clear evidence of anti-Muslim prejudice, while interpreting ‘religious freedom’ in the broadest possible terms for other communities.
Religious liberty should apply to all religions equally. That is a fundamental principle on which this country was founded.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.