Can This Texas Pastor Lay Hands on an Inmate During Execution?

Q&A with SBC minister Dana Moore on the power of prayer in a state death chamber.

John Henry Ramirez is scheduled to die on September 8. The state of Texas will execute him by lethal injection for the 2004 murder of 45-year-old convenience store clerk Pablo Castro. Ramirez was convicted of stabbing Castro 29 times in the process of stealing $1.25 to buy drugs. Now, 17 years later, he will be put to death for his crime.

When that happens, Ramirez would like to have his pastor lay hands on him. He filed suit in federal court last week claiming he has a religious right to have Dana Moore, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, touch him while he dies.

According to Ramirez’s lawyer, Seth Kretzer, the prison’s current policy allows doctors and guards to touch an inmate during execution, but does not allow spiritual touch. Kretzer argues that this “burdens Mr. Ramirez’s free exercise of his Christian faith at his exact time of death, when most Christians believe they will either ascend to heaven or descend to hell—in other words, when religious instruction and practice is most needed.”

CT reached out to the Southern Baptist pastor to ask about the importance of the laying on of hands, ministering on death row, and what he thinks people should know about Ramirez.

Why is touching someone or laying hands on them important to you as a Baptist pastor?

When I pray with people, I put a hand on them. When I go to the hospital, I hold the person’s hand. It’s what we do. It’s how we do things.

Just last week we had a fellowship, and I looked over, and one of the church ladies was praying for another one. And the one standing, she put her hands on the lady who was seated, on her shoulders, and she was praying over her.

I don’t think it’s …

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