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FFRF challenges Texas judge’s courtroom religiosity

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is legally questioning a Texas judge's courtroom religiosity.

FFRF yesterday submitted a brief to the Texas attorney general's office concerning the constitutionally suspect courtroom prayer practice of Montgomery County Justice of the Peace Wayne L. Mack. The brief argues that Mack's underlying court chaplaincy program is also illegal. It refutes the arguments filed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in support of Mack and supplements the arguments made against Mack by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. 

In its brief, FFRF details how two separate complainants contacted the organization to report that they felt coerced by Mack into participating in prayer. Despite their personal objections, both joined in "out of fear that nonparticipation would prejudice the judge against them and affect their social or professional standing."

FFRF argues that Mack's courtroom prayers are historically unsupported, divisive and a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While Patrick contended that the prayers were similar to legislative prayer upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Town of Greece v. Galloway, FFRF asserts that courtroom prayer does not enjoy the same tradition that the Supreme Court used to justify legislative prayer in Greece.

FFRF maintains that Mack's court chaplaincy program also violates the Constitution. The brief charges that Mack "has created an inherently religious program designed to promote his personal religious views by ministering to traumatized people at scenes of death and proselytizing citizens obligated to appear before him in court."

FFRF's brief also notes a conflict of interest that the attorney general's office must address before issuing an opinion on the courtroom prayers. The office recently hired two attorneys from First Liberty to high-ranking positions, even though First Liberty defended Mack's courtroom prayer before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"Government officials and Texas citizens should be able to rely on attorney general legal opinions," notes FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover in the brief. "It would be a disservice to the public for the attorney general to issue opinions that merely reflect the desires and biases of those who serve in that office."

FFRF is continuing to pursue all legal avenues to put an end to Mack's unconstitutional and unwarranted religious zeal.

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