The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Wednesday that it will no longer allow prison chaplains of any faith to accompany inmates into execution chambers.
The policy change closely follows the Supreme Court’s stay of execution for Patrick Murphy, a Texas inmate whose request that a Buddhist spiritual adviser be present in his execution chamber was denied by the state.
The court’s majority postponed Murphy’s execution until his spiritual adviser could be present. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice appeared to be influenced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion in which he argued that the state had two options: allow all spiritual advisers in the execution chamber or require all spiritual advisers to remain in the viewing area. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice opted to take the latter option. Under the new policy, prison chaplains will be allowed in the viewing area and may meet with inmates on death row prior to the execution but will not be permitted in the execution chamber.