After a Texas judicial commission, prompted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), left unanswered questions about a judge’s volunteer chaplaincy program and courtroom prayers, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was asked to look into the program to see if it passed constitutional muster. Montgomery County Justice of the Peace/Coroner Wayne Mack found that if witnesses testifying in court had a chaplain of their chosen religion open the proceedings or pray for them upon request, they felt more at ease in court.
When the Freedom From Religion Foundation got wind of it, they filed a complaint with that state’s judicial commission, asserting that Mack was violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. The commission ended up scolding Mack but not ordering a stop to the chaplains or their prayers as they dismissed the complaint. So the Texas Attorney General weighed in Monday, August 15 after months of investigation. He found the chaplaincy program and the prayers were constitutional since the program included chaplains of all faiths, was voluntary, and that opening prayers were a traditional practice surviving many court challenges as acceptable in many jurisdictions across the country.
The FFRF is disappointed by the AG’s opinion, and feel they could win in a federal court, but they cannot bring a suit in federal court since they have failed to find someone willing to be a plaintiff (i.e. flunky) for them. First Liberty Institute, who represented Mack, hails the AG opinion as a common sense victory since both the Texas Supreme Court and US Supreme Court open their sessions with prayer.
For more on this story, follow these links: