Texas bans all clergy from death chamber after court stays Buddhist's execution

Image: 123RF/Alexei Novikov

Texas will bar clergy of all faiths from accompanying inmates into the death chamber after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed an execution because the state did not allow the man's Buddhist spiritual adviser in, local media reported on Thursday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice changed its policy, which had previously allowed department employees including Christian and Muslim clerics, to enter the chamber, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing a state document laying out the new policy.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The change comes less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of Patrick Murphy, 57, a member of the "Texas 7" group of prison escapees who was placed on death row in 2003.

"Governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court's opinion.

The new policy states that only prison security personnel will be allowed in the execution chamber with the inmate, and chaplains, ministers or spiritual advisers may observe from the witness room, the Houston Chronicle reported.

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