Press Release

Supreme Court stays execution, requires Texas to allow Buddhist prisoner access to priest in execution chamber 

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

WASHINGTON Late tonight, and two and a half hours after the scheduled start to the execution of Patrick Henry Murphy by the State of Texas, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to stay his execution. The Supreme Court ruled that Texas could not proceed with the execution unless it permitted a Buddhist spiritual advisor to be with Murphy in the execution chamber. Texas already allows Christian and Muslim clergy to accompany prisoners in the execution chamber. 

The following statement can be attributed to Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket: 

Religious liberty won today. The Supreme Court made it clear that the First Amendment applies to every American, no matter their faith. As we said in our brief to the Court, you can’t give fewer rights to Buddhists than you give to Christians or Muslims. In his last moments, a condemned man can receive both comfort from a minister of his own faith, and equal treatment under the law. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling followed Becket’s recommendation, after Becket filed an emergency amicus brief at the Court earlier today urging the Court to require Texas to allow a Buddhist minister to accompany Murphy to the execution chamber. 

Justice Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion, reinforcing the fact that “governmental discrimination against religionin particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech violates the Constitution.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219.  Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

Additional Information: 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions  and has a 100% win-rate before the United States  Supreme Court.  For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).