A Texas Justice of the Peace is facing a lawsuit because of his practice of opening each court session with a prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is seeking to take Judge Wayne Mack to federal court for doing what has been done in the U.S. Supreme Court and Texas Supreme Court for years. The prayers are led by local ministers, and occur before proceedings begin. All in attendance are given the opportunity to step out of the courtroom before the prayer begins.
The Wisconsin-based group touts itself as “the nation’s largest association of freethinkers,” which is code for atheists/agnostics. They have been working since 1978 to block religious influence from government at all levels. Their attorney, Sam Grover, is confident the prayer will be found unconstitutional. He claims his organization has been contacted by two people in Texas, presumably to complain about this religious practice.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has deemed the practice constitutional and consistent with practice in other judicial settings. Mack is represented by First Liberty, whose spokesperson voices confidence his practice will be upheld by federal court. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue, saying the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer is clearly protected under the Constitution,” says Chelsey Youman.
Judge Mack has responded. “I am simply following in the footsteps of the United States and the Texas Supreme Courts who also open their court sessions with prayer,” he said. “I am grateful that the Texas Attorney General said Texas judges can allow courtroom proceedings to be opened with an invocation. I’m not sure why a group from Wisconsin is trying to dictate what we do in Texas.”
Mack’s court is in Precinct 1, in Conroe, which is 50 miles north of Houston. I have been in his court. When I was blessed to pastor in that area, I came to know Judge Mack personally. He is a man of character and integrity. Having led the courtroom prayer myself, I saw firsthand how it works. No one is forced to be present for the prayers. The prayers are led by a myriad of ministers, representing dozens of churches and multiple denominations. Though I was a close friend of the judge’s and the pastor of an influential church, I was not given any more opportunity to lead the public prayers than the pastor of the small church in the woods who had no personal relationship with the judge.
People in Conroe love Wayne Mack, even if they don’t agree with him on every point. That’s why they vote for him in overwhelming numbers. I applaud a man who simply continues one of the best practices that is carried out every day across the country. I have led the daily prayer for the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives 12 times. The only difference in the way Judge Mack conducts the prayer practice in his court is that he actually announces the prayer before proceedings begin, allowing for those to leave for a few minutes, who might want to.
Unfortunately, many have misinterpreted the principle of separation of church and state to mean separation of church from state. God has blessed America because America has blessed God. Now an atheist group from 1,110 miles away wants to tell the people of Conroe, Texas that they can no longer do what Americans have always done – have a brief, voluntary, nondenominational prayer before court proceedings begin.
Keep up the good work, Judge Mack. Thank you for being God’s man. The world is watching. Keep doing the right thing.
Judge Wayne Mack has served as Justice of the Peace, Pct. 1, Justice Court 1 in Montgomery County, Texas since May 1, 2014. To follow this evolving story or to join the fight for religious freedom, visit www.waynemack.org.