Monday, October 01, 2007

Courts Face Childrens' Religious Claims Regarding Treatment of Fathers' Bodies

In two rather different recent case, courts have been faced with religious claims by children regarding the handling of their fathers' body after death. In Stone v. Allen, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71893 (SD AL, Sept. 25, 2007), the daughter of death row inmate Thomas Arthur sought a preliminary injunction to prevent authorities from performing an autopsy on her father after his execution. She alleged that the autopsy violated her religious beliefs, and would interfere with her right to possess and dispose of her father's body. Her father was not a party to the lawsuit. The court held that a performance of an autopsy on plaintiff's father would not infringe plaintiff's First Amendment Free Exercise rights. In fact, Arthur has not yet been executed because Alabama Gov. Bob Riley at the last minute on Thursday issued a 45-day stay of execution so that the state can complete plans to change its lethal injection protocol. (Birmingham News.)

Meanwhile, in Franklin, Tennessee, a Williamson County Chancery Court Judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing the cremation of Howard Lee Rothenstein, who died Sept. 21. Today the court will hold a hearing on the dispute between Rothstein's wife who wants his remains created, and Rothstein's son who says that his father is Jewish and should be buried according to Jewish traditions. Friday's Tennessean says that court papers filed by the son object to his stepmother's plans for the body, saying "cremation is particularly disrespectful to this decedent since he ... had relatives whose bodies were burnt by the Nazis during the Holocaust."