In yet another outrageous blow to religious liberty – arguably our most important freedom – the California Supreme Court recently upheld state regulations that bar spiritual advisers from sharing a prisoner’s last hours. In a unanimous vote, the court upheld a rule requiring pastors, priests, and other spiritual counselors to leave the prisoner 45 minutes before the execution. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office argued that the presence of “someone there who does love him and prefers that he live can be very distracting” while the prisoner and the execution team are preparing for the execution.
Yes, of course – we can't have anyone concerned about the prisoner’s soul hanging around while the state prepares to do its dirty work, now can we?
Unjust laws like this provide real insight into today's godless modern state. In short, the government assumes we don't have souls. A person's faith is simply a particular preference like fancying steak over chicken. Religious freedom is tolerated to a point, so long as it doesn't interfere with important governmental stuff – in this case, killing. This is what is now meant by “the separation of church and state”: when government decides to move in for the kill, religion must move out.
No time is more important for spiritual counseling than at the hour of our death. This is true in all times and in all places – even on death row. As Samuel Johnson observed, a hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully – and what it usually focuses on is one's immortal soul. Many conversions occur just before a man meets his Maker and even the most hardened criminal is entitled to a chance for confession, penance and forgiveness from God and from man. It is a grave injustice to deny this to anyone, particularly at someone's last moment on earth.
Tellingly, the state wouldn't consider denying a criminal the creature comforts of a last meal or final cigarette. But it thinks nothing of denying him a far more important consolation – the solace that even if one's mortal flesh cannot be saved, things can yet be made right with God through repentance.
Many disdainfully consider our medieval ancestors benighted and ignorant. But at least they had their priorities straight. Anyone headed for the gallows had the benefit of spiritual counseling until the moment they faced the executioner – who then asked the condemned for forgiveness for what he was about to do.
Today’s modern government won’t be bothered with such “distractions.” Thus, inmates about to die at the state’s hands are stripped not only of their life, but also of their dignity – with no final reminder of the eternal things.
The more I see of the barbarities of the modern state, the more civilized the “Dark Ages” seem.