Nonprofit sues justice of peace over courtroom prayer practice

By John Suayan | Mar 23, 2017

HOUSTON – A Montgomery County Justice of the Peace is accused of violating three individuals’ First Amendment rights by implementing a courtroom prayer practice, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Houston on Mar. 21.

The Madison-Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. initiated the litigation against Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack on behalf of the plaintiffs, whom court documents refrain from identifying.

Per the FFRF, the complainants object to a visiting chaplain delivering a prayer to those assembled in the courtroom before the start of each court session.

One of the two female complainants asserts that she felt compelled by government authority to demonstrate obeisance to someone else’s religion when Mack first mandated prayers in his chambers in August 2014, the suit says.

The complaint adds that the second woman shared her fellow plaintiff’s grievances, alleging the State Commission on Judicial Conduct told Mack to end his prayer practice or find another substitute deemed acceptable by the United States and Texas supreme courts.

Mack purportedly revised the practice in question to which he locked his courtroom doors while a prayer is conducted. John Doe and the female plaintiffs observed the modified ritual, according to the original petition.

It further claims: “All of the prayers witnessed by the three individual plaintiffs in Judge Mack’s courtroom have been sectarian prayers, delivered by Christians, in the name of Jesus.”

The suit ultimately faults Mack for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The FFRF is represented by its in-house counsel Sam Grover and Elizabeth Cavell and attorney Patrick A. Luff of the Luff Law Firm, PLLC in San Antonio.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:17-CV-0881

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