Arkansas Judge Punished for Anti-Death Penalty Views Gains Support from Religious Leaders

By Mira Soni

Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen is garnering support from religious leaders after his participation in an anti-death penalty march in April caused the state’s Supreme Court to bar him from hearing any cases involving the death penalty.

Griffen issued a temporary restraining order on April 14th preventing Arkansas from using one of several drugs used in lethal injections. That same day, Griffen, who is Christian, attended an anti-death penalty protest in which he lay strapped to a cot. According to Arkansas Online, Judge Griffen said he was “portraying a crucified Jesus.”

The state overturned Griffen’s order, and later prohibited him from hearing cases involving the death penalty because of his involvement in the protest. Griffen is being investigated by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for misconduct.

In a news conference on Friday, Griffen argued that he was expressing his religious freedom, as guaranteed under the state’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He was joined by religious leaders from across Arkansas and other states.

According to the Press-Argus Courier, Griffin stated at the conference that he would be willing to pursue legal action against the state.  

“It is a RFRA violation, and unless it is cured, there will be court action. That’s a yes.”

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