The Freedom From Religion Foundation is contesting blatantly unconstitutional conduct by a judge in Montgomery County, Texas.
After FFRF was alerted that Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack was opening court sessions illegally with Christian prayer, FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent him a letter of complaint Sept. 18.
According to a local complainant present in August in Mack's court, the judge stated: “We are going to say a prayer. If any of you are offended by that, you can leave into the hallway and your case will not be affected.” Mack then introduced a minister who read from the bible at length before those in attendance were asked to bow their heads and pray.
Grover cited relevant court cases while noting, "Your courtroom prayer practice does not promote public confidence or create the appearance of impartiality."
FFRF, a nationwide state-church watchdog with more than 21,000 members and 900 in Texas, is also filing a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Austin.
While Mack didn't formally respond to FFRF as requested, he instead has scheduled a "full buffet prayer breakfast" Oct. 23 at a Conroe convention center. At that time, he says in an Oct. 10 email, "I will be addressing [FFRF's] demand." He tells "Pastors & People of Faith" that "I need your help to take a stand."
Mack's plea is part of an email from Betty Anderson of the Montgomery County Eagle Forum addressed to "LOCAL Churches & People of Faith." Anderson writes, "A Christian brother, an elected official, needs our help right now." Anderson ends with, "Serving the King, and standing up for our God-given inalienable rights to religious freedom."
In its complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, FFRF notes that in the email, "Judge Mack doubles down on his commitment to endorsing religion while acting in his official capacity. The email strongly indicates that Judge Mack will not end his prayer practice and will seek to further entangle his personal religious beliefs with his judicial office. He has demonstrated indifference for how his actions undermine public confidence in his impartiality."
The Madison County School Board in Danielsville, Ga., unanimously affirmed on Oct. 14 that a religious monument outside the Madison High School football stadium will be removed or modified, as a school district attorney told the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Sept. 24.
The monument was unveiled Aug. 22 and features the school’s logo alongside two New Testament bible verses carved on the stone: Philippians 4:13 ("I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”) and Romans 8:31 (“If God be for us who can be against us?”).
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter Aug. 28 informing Superintendent Allen McCannon of the illegal nature of the monument and adding, "The import is clear, if you are not Christian, you are not a Red Raider.”
The school board met yesterday in closed session for about two hours before unanimously approving a motion to modify the monument by removing or covering the religious references, the Madison Journal Today reported. Monument supporters made some fairly over-the-top statements to the board before the closed session. More than a dozen pastors led prayer from the podium while the board was behind closed doors.
Most in the crowd of 150 to 200 people were middle-aged or older, the paper reported. "Very few students were in attendance."
The American Humanist Association also sent a letter on Sept. 25, protesting the monument.