Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Judge sides with FFRF against Texas AG

Vol. 35 No. 01 January/February 2018
Judge Mack                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

A district judge on Dec. 13 rejected the Texas attorney general’s attempt to meddle in an FFRF lawsuit against an overly prayerful judicial official.

In March 2017, FFRF and three individuals filed a federal lawsuit to stop a Texas justice of the peace from imposing prayers at the start of each court session.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton held a press conference on May 17 to announce his intent to interfere with the lawsuit against Judge Wayne Mack. FFRF called out Paxton for his “hyperbolic speculation” and set the record straight on the attorney general’s deliberate mischaracterization of the issues raised in FFRF’s lawsuit. Now a judge has affirmed the correctness of FFRF’s stance. 

“The fact that FFRF in other cases has brought Establishment Clause challenges to different practices by different Texas officials does not transform this case into a statewide attack on all Texas officials such that any state agency may intervene as of right,” U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. wrote. Previously, before starting each of his court sessions, Mack introduced a “visiting pastor,” outlining his credentials, advertising the church he is from and where it is located. The guest chaplain often read or sermonized from the Christian bible, then asked attendees to bow their heads and pray. By spring 2015, Mack inaugurated changes, having the bailiff introduce the prayer prior to Mack entering the courtroom. Notably, Mack chose to lock the courtroom doors prior to the chaplain-led prayers.

In July, FFRF filed a response to deny Mack’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.