The religious freedom cases the Supreme Court could hear – and refuse – this fall

In addition to a major abortion case, the Supreme Court this fall will consider cases on vocal prayer at executions and state tuition assistance for religious schools, and could decide take up other religious freedom cases.

Although the court usually decides death penalty cases on the “emergency docket” – reserved for urgent petitions outside the formal appeals process – the court will hear arguments in the case of a Texas death row inmate this term on its “merits” docket. The court recently halted the execution of Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez in order to consider his case; Ramirez is requesting his pastor be allowed to lay hands on him and pray out loud as he is executed by the state.

Current policy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice allows Ramirez’s pastor to be present with him in the execution chamber, but without physical contact or audible prayer as he is dying.

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