Supreme Court halts execution of John Ramirez, Texas inmate seeking pastor’s touch, prayer

The Supreme Court halted the execution of a Texas death row inmate Wednesday who asked that his pastor be permitted to lay hands on him and pray while he dies.

John Ramirez, convicted of a 2004 murder at a Corpus Christi convenience store, asserted that a Texas policy prohibiting his pastor from placing his hands on him during his execution violated his First Amendment right to practice his religion without government interference.

Ramirez’s execution had been set to take place after 6 p.m. CT. In a one-paragraph order, the court stayed his execution and granted his request to hear his case. The court said it would hear arguments in the appeal in October or November.

The case sits within the crosscurrents of a court that has permitted many executions to go forward but at the same time has looked favorably on claims challenging government policies burdening religious exercise.

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