Williams & Connolly Files Amicus Brief in Support of Prisoners’ Religious Freedom

September 2021

On September 27, 2021, Williams & Connolly and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an amicus brief in support of John Henry Ramirez, a prisoner in Texas who received an execution stay from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. In his final moments, Mr. Ramirez wishes to have his pastor of five years pray aloud and lay hands on him.  At issue is whether the State’s complete ban on audible prayer and the “laying of hands” on Mr. Ramirez violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which was enacted “to provide very broad protection for religious liberty” by subjecting the State to strict scrutiny whenever it substantially burdens a prisoner’s religious exercise.
In the brief, which Williams & Connolly and the ACLU filed on behalf of a group of spiritual advisors and corrections experts, the amici argue that “[b]arring spiritual advisors from praying audibly and physically touching prisoners during an execution denies those about to die their right to faith-based solace and religious practice when it matters most.” The case, Ramirez v. Collier, is scheduled to be argued before the Court on November 1, 2021.
The Williams & Connolly team representing amici includes Lisa Blatt, Luke McCloud, Ayla Syed, Bryan Czako, and Mihir Khetarpal.
Click here to read coverage by Bloomberg, and here to read the amicus brief.

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