Judge Sides with Atheist Group, Strikes Down Pre-Court Prayer as Unconstitutional

(Christian Headlines) — A Texas judge’s practice of opening his court sessions in chaplain-led prayer violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion, a federal district court ruled Friday.

Judge Wayne Mack, a justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Texas, created a chaplaincy program in 2014 allowing volunteer chaplains to “assist the Court system and Law Enforcement with grieving families on tragic death scenes or death call notifications.” Chaplains also were allowed to offer an invocation for Mack’s court sessions.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which calls itself an organization of “atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree,” sued Mack in federal court, arguing that the prayers were unconstitutional. FFRF represented an attorney who is a member of the organization and who frequently argued cases in Mack’s courtroom.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt issued a 15-page decision siding with the atheist organization. Hoyt was nominated by President Reagan. Mack’s attorneys say they will appeal.

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