A Christian, an atheist, and a religiously unaffiliated person are suing a Montgomery County justice of the peace for opening his court sessions with a Christian prayer. No, this isn’t the start to a bad joke — the three are arguing Judge Wayne Mack has violated their constitutional right to a religion-free government. And religious freedom experts seem to agree with their case.
According to court documents, Judge Mack has asked volunteer pastors to lead his courtroom in prayer since assuming office in 2014. Before beginning the often 8 minute-long sermon, Mack allows people “offended” by the ritual to leave if they so choose — and return when it’s over. It’s not mandatory, and participation won’t affect a person’s case, he insists.
Regardless, the plaintiff’s attorneys argue his tradition still breaks the constitutional rule that “government may not…promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion.”
Two of the unnamed plaintiffs in the case — both regular attorneys in Mack’s courtroom — said they fear that refusing to participate in prayer will cost them a fair trial or make their clients uncomfortable.