Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2021 / 14:15 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case of an Alabama death row inmate who has asked to have a Christian pastor present with him to pray in the final moments of his life.
Alabama inmate Willie Smith is scheduled to be executed February 11. Late on the night of February 10, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alabama must allow Pastor Robert Paul Wiley, Jr. to be present in the execution chamber, reversing a lower court decision. Wiley has ministered to Smith for years during his time in prison. Alabama appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the decision and allow the execution to move forward without the pastor present.
In 2019, the Alabama Department of Corrections banned clergy members from being present with people being executed by the state. The rule was put in place following a controversy in Texas in which some religions were allowed to have ministers at executions, but others were not. The Supreme Court told Texas it could not continue this practice of selectively choosing which faiths could have ministers present. Texas and Alabama then both implemented bans on all clergy during executions.