- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked to intervene Wednesday on behalf of a county judge who’s battling to be allowed to open his courtroom with a prayer.

Mr. Paxton said hosting a prayer doesn’t violate the Constitution, so the judge should be allowed to continue.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is trying to get Justice of the Peace Judge Wayne Mack to stop the prayer practice, in a battle dating back three years.

Originally, Judge Mack would introduce the prayer and guest chaplain, but after the complaint he now has the bailiff introduce the prayer.

But Freedom from Religion says that still violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, preventing excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Judge Mack permits “all religious leaders of any faith in [his county] to participate.” But Freedom from Religion Foundation said three of the individuals bringing the lawsuit against Judge Mack have only witnessed the prayers be “Christian in nature.”

According to the complaint, filed in March, they felt intimidated and didn’t leave the courtroom during the prayer service for fear it would negatively impact their cases.

Mr. Paxton last year issued a legal opinion that Judge Mack was likely in compliance with the Constitution.

“Nothing in the facts described suggests that the Justice of the Peace compels or coerces individuals in his courtroom to engage in a religious observance,” Mr. Paxton said in the opinion.

Now he’s seeking to intervene in the new lawsuit to defend the judge, pointing back to his advisory opinion’s reasoning that the case turns on whether anyone is being forced into behavior.

“The lawsuit against Judge Mack is an affront to religious liberty and yet another attempt to push religious expression from public life,” said Mr. Paxton.

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