Fight Over Religious Freedom In Texas Heats Up
The fight between an atheist organization and the Texas attorney general over prayers before court proceedings and government meetings continued Wednesday with a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Vowing to protect the religious freedom of all Texans, Paxton on Wednesday filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit involving Montgomery County Justice of the Piece Wayne Mack, who is being sued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation over his courtroom prayers.
FFRF filed the lawsuit against Mack claiming his prayer practice in court violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The motion to intervene was filed on behalf of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which includes a prayer at the beginning of its meetings, after the color guard and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Paxton explained that government bodies and courts throughout the state solemnize their meetings with prayer. The commission’s practices and Mack’s are deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld such practices, according to a release by Paxton’s office.
“The lawsuit against Judge Mack is an affront to religious liberty and yet another attempt to push religious expression from public life. The Commission’s prayer practice, like Judge Mack’s courtroom prayer, is completely consistent with our nation’s history of protecting religious expression,” Paxton said in a prepared statement.
FFRF filed a records request with Paxton’s office seeking records of conversations and correspondence with First Liberty, a religious organization that is representing Mack in the lawsuit.
The atheist group in a press statement said it is questioning Paxton’s ties to the religious advocacy organization.
“It’s clear that the attorney general has a close relationship with this religious advocacy organization,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But what we’re concerned about is whether he’s abused his position as attorney general to further First Liberty’s religious agenda.”