Supreme Court stays execution of Buddhist inmate in Texas

The Supreme Court blocked the execution of a Texas inmate on Thursday after state officials declined to let his spiritual adviser be present for the moment of his death.

Conservative Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughKavanaugh book author on impeachment calls: 'That's not our determination to make' Kavanaugh authors defend the integrity of their work The Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution MORE voted with the court's liberal justices to halt the execution of Patrick Henry Murphy, convicted for the murder of a police officer, after the state of Texas refused to allow his Buddhist spiritual adviser to be present in the execution chamber.

A Texas state policy forbids chaplains who are not state employees from being in the same room when the execution is carried out.


"As this Court has repeatedly held, governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution," Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion. "The government may not discriminate against religion generally or against particular religious denominations.

"In this case, the relevant Texas policy allows a Christian or Muslim inmate to have a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious adviser present either in the execution room or in the adjacent viewing room," Kavanaugh continued.

Buddhists or members of other denominations, he noted, "can have the religious adviser present only in the viewing room and not in the execution room itself for their executions. In my view, the Constitution prohibits such denominational discrimination."

Two other conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, ruled that the execution should proceed, according to court documents.

Murphy, who was first imprisoned for aggravated assault, escaped prison as a member of the "Texas 7" gang of criminals. The group killed a police officer, Aubrey Hawkins, while robbing a sporting goods store on Christmas Eve of 2000.

Murphy was convicted of capitol murder in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) celebrated the stay of Murphy's execution in a statement released on Twitter.

"This is good news, but we can't forget this is the same court that denied a Muslim man the same right just last month," the ACLU tweeted, referencing a case in which an Alabama man was denied a stay of execution by the Supreme Court.

"The only real difference between Domineque Ray's and Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphyBipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year First Iraq vet to serve in Congress endorses Buttigieg Sen King, Rep Gallagher to chair bipartisan commission to defend US in cyberspace MORE's requests to have clergy members of their own faiths at their executions is that Ray is a Muslim and Murphy is not. The Supreme Court's divergent rulings once again suggest that Muslims are not treated equally."