The Supreme Court's Conservatives Finally Found a Religious Objection They Don't Like - 2021-11-09
In recent years, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly paranoid about religious discrimination. The Republican-appointed justices see "animosity to religion" around every corner (unless it emanates from Donald Trump). They have been keen to shield people of faith—specifically, conservative Christians—from the faintest whiff of offense. And they have been eager to grant exemptions to religious plaintiffs who insist that complying with the law would violate their beliefs. At no point in any of the court's recent religious liberty cases did these justices even raise the possibility that these plaintiffs had feigned or exaggerated their beliefs.
Until Tuesday. During arguments in Ramirez v. Collier, several conservative justices expressed serious skepticism toward the sincerity of a religious plaintiff's faith. The difference between Ramirez and every past case? John Henry Ramirez is on death row, and his demand for a Baptist pastor in the death chamber has delayed his execution date. It turns out that these justices do think that courts can assess the authenticity of religious objections … but only when the objector is about to be killed by the state.
The facts of Ramirez are heavily disputed, but the outline goes like this: In 2008, a Texas jury sentenced Ramirez to death for murder. Behind bars, he has received counseling from Dana Moore, a pastor at the Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. Moore routinely drives more than 300 miles to minister to Ramirez behind a plexiglass window. Ramirez, a devout Baptist, would like Moore to accompany him in the execution chamber when he is put to death by lethal injection. Specifically, he wants permission for his pastor to pray by his side and lay hands on him when his heart stops.