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Battle begins as activists target Texas judge for his longtime tradition of starting sessions with prayer

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A liberal activist group is suing a county judge in Texas for starting his court sessions with a prayer.

The activist group, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), filed its lawsuit this week alleging that Montgomery County Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack is violating the U.S. Constitution by bringing religion into his courtroom, Fox News reported.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three Texas citizens who claim to have been harmed by the judge’s actions.

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The suit further alleges that Judge Mack went out of his way to violate the Constitution by promising to institute “religious values within the office” when he ran for the position during the recent election. And once he took up his duties as the Justice of the Peace for Montgomery County Precinct 1, he began a “chaplaincy program” in which guest ministers come into the courtroom to open each session with a Christian prayer.

“Shortly after assuming the office of Justice of the Peace on May 1, 2014, Judge Mack implemented the practice of opening each court session with a prayer delivered by a guest chaplain,” the lawsuit claims.

The FFRF lawsuit also alleges that the judge used the prayer time not to pray himself but to observe those in the courtroom as they reacted to the prayer. “During the prayer, Judge Mack did not bow his head, but observed those in the courtroom,” the lawsuit insists.

Because of this, the anti-Christian group claimed that the judge put their client in fear that her negative reaction to the prayer would be held against her as the judge heard her case.

But a pro-religion group, the First Liberty Institute, says the lawsuit is just a nuisance suit.

“Judge Mack’s program is an excellent idea and a great way to serve the community,” First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford said in a statement. “It has already been upheld by both The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Texas Attorney General.”

Indeed, a similar case was recently decided in the favor of religious expression in Texas.

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On March 20 a federal appeals court ruled that a Texas school board is allowed to open its meetings with a prayer and that the prayer does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

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