Skip to content

US Supreme Court rules death-row inmate free to pray with pastor during execution

Related Case:
Supreme Court

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday in Ramirez v. Collier, a case in which prison officials denied the request of John Henry Ramirez—who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death—to have his pastor pray by his side when he is executed:

“Mr. Ramirez has come to hold sincere religious beliefs, and his appeal to God in his final moments demands respect and accommodation. The First Amendment right to freely exercise one’s religion extends to prison and to those like Mr. Ramirez who are confined within its walls. Throughout history, clergy members have been a comforting and expected presence at executions, ministering over and praying for the condemned before death. We are pleased the Supreme Court has affirmed Mr. Ramirez’s constitutionally protected freedom to have his pastor pray by his side at such an hour.”

ADF, through its counsel Gordon Todd of Sidley Austin, LLP, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court in support of Ramirez’s First Amendment rights. The brief explained how “Mr. Ramirez’s religious beliefs as to the ministry he wishes to receive from his pastor as he departs from this life does not appear to be in dispute…. Spoken prayer from a pastor to his people is fundamental to Scripture and Christian practice. Such a practice does not lose its religious significance in the context of end-of-life pastoral care. To the contrary, it is ubiquitous in end-of-life rituals practiced for centuries across various Christian denominations, ranging from the Catholic spoken liturgy of the Viaticum to Protestant traditions deeply rooted in this nation’s history.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

# # #

Related Profiles

John Bursch
John Bursch
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Appellate Advocacy
John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom.