As AFN has reported, Judge Wayne Mack is a justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Texas who created a chaplaincy program to serve those who are dealing with things like the accidental death of a loved one.
Judge Mack also serves as his town's coroner, so he is often called to the scene following murders or tragic accidents, where people are left struggling with the sudden loss of life. So, he asked the community there if chaplains would be willing to come and be a source of comfort for those people. And to thank those leaders from a variety of faiths, Judge Mack also sometimes invited them to open court sessions with a brief invocation.
"They could say a few words, and those words oftentimes include opening the session in prayer," reports attorney Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute. "But the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) didn't like that. They filed a lawsuit. They've engaged in … seven years of litigation over this issue and have finally lost at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court determined that this is perfectly consistent with our nation's history and tradition of welcoming religion in the public square."
The judge reportedly takes "great pains" to assure those in court that they are not obligated to participate in the invocations and that opting out will not affect their cases. FFRF claimed that some attendees feel subjective pressure anyway, but they were unable to provide evidence suggesting that "coercion is a real and substantial likelihood."
Dys says if the FFRF had won, then that would have restricted religious viewpoints and driven religion out of the public square entirely.
"This is the reason why we stand up for religious freedom for all faith groups," the attorney tells AFN. "When one faith group is protected, all of them are protected as well"
That, he says, is "critical to undergirding our sense of freedom in this country."