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Courtroom Invocations Did Not Violate Establishment Clause


In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Mack, (5th Cir., Sept. 29, 2022), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a program devised by a Justice of the Peace under which his court sessions are opened with a prayer from a volunteer chaplain does not violate the Establishment Clause. The court said in part:

The plaintiffs cry coercion because Texas Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack opens his court with a ceremony that includes a prayer. But Mack also takes great pains to convince attendees that they need not watch the ceremony—and that doing so will not affect their cases. Some attendees say they feel subjective pressure anyway. Yet the plaintiffs have no evidence suggesting that “coercion is a real and substantial likelihood.” Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 590 (2014).

Want of evidence showing coercion dooms their case. In holding otherwise, the district court disregarded the Supreme Court’s most recent guidance.

First Liberty Institute issued a press release announcing the decision.  The 5th Circuit had previously granted a stay which allowed the invocations to go on while the case was on appeal.



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