Humanists call on Supreme Court to defend constitutional rights of convicted Texas inmate

This is from the American Humanist Association:

The American Humanist Association (AHA) has joined with other secular organizations on a friend of the court brief, filed today with the United States Supreme Court in Ramirez vs. Collier, dealing with the constitutionality of the death penalty and the right to free religious exercise of imprisoned persons.

“If the Supreme Court really cares about religious freedom, it will end the anachronistic practice of capital punishment, which is supported by fundamentalist Christian doctrine, because it is completely at odds with our country’s promise of civil liberty.” , said the legal and senior director of the AHA. Advice Monica Miller. “Additionally, many Christians also oppose the death penalty on religious grounds and this case involves a Baptist petitioner,” Miller added with cautious optimism.

The brief argues that the court should avoid the question of whether Texas’ policy of banning oral prayer and physical contact inside the execution chamber is permitted and rule that the death penalty is totally unconstitutional.

Ramirez, convicted of murder in 2008, is currently serving a death sentence. He requested that his Baptist pastor be allowed to put his hands on Ramirez’s body and pray aloud during the fatal injection. However, the state of Texas refused to accede to his request. Currently, the law requires a government entity to demonstrate a compelling interest in weighing up the right to freely exercise its religion, which Texas has not demonstrated. This case has broad implications for the Court’s treatment of the free religious exercise clause. After granting John Ramirez’s emergency request for a temporary stay of execution date earlier this month, the court will hear Ramirez’s appeal this fall.

Today’s amicus brief, submitted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-signed by the American Humanist Association and American atheists, argues that the Court should consider capital punishment, as a practice, to be unconstitutional and based on the Bible. He also argues that state-sponsored executions violate a person’s ability to freely exercise their religion and, if executions are permitted, end-of-life accommodation must be made available to all.

“In the Western world, the death penalty is a barbaric relic which has often been justified by religious scriptures, and it has no place in modern society,” explains the brief. He later continues: “While the fundamental source of the death penalty may not be uniquely biblical, in the Western world it has been the source of the death penalty. “

“The AHA has long expressed its opposition to capital punishment,” comments AHA Deputy Director Nicole Carr. “We believe that this practice reflects a disregard for fundamental human rights and we strongly denounce it in all circumstances. “

Arguments in Ramirez vs. Collier will be heard in October or November.

A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.

AHA Board of Directors resolution affirming human rights for all (September 2015)


The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-theistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life affirming worldview of humanism, which, without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces, encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for its support to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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