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Texas AG Reaffirms Prayer, Scripture Reading In Court

08-22-2016
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a six-page legal opinion defending the practice of praying and reading scripture in court. 
 
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenged the practice after filing a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct about Montgomery, Texas Judge Wayne Mack.
 
Mack is known to open each court session with prayer and he has a volunteer chaplain read scriptures from the Bible.  
 
The group claimed that court room proceedings were "blatantly unconstitutional" and forced religious ceremony in court.           
 
Paxton contended that it does not violate the Establishment Clause to open a court session with the statement "God save the State of Texas and this Honorable Court" or to open court with a prayer, or have a volunteer chaplain read from the Bible. 
 
"Both the United States Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court have longstanding practices of opening their sessions with (the)  invocation "God save the United States (or the 'State of Texas)  and this Honorable Court.," the Attorney General wrote.  
 
"The Court has explained that the recitation of this type of phrase at the opening of court sessions is like legislative prayer in that it is 'part of our heritage and tradition, (and)  part of our expressive idiom,'" the opinion states. 
 
According to the Office of Attorney General website, although the AG's opinion is a non-binding legal opinion it is a "written interpretation of existing law." 
 
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick considers this opinion a major step forward.
 
"This is a sure victory for religious liberty in Texas," he said. "This opinion goes a long way in providing the necessary clarity to Judge Mack, and judges throughout Texas, of constitutionally appropriate court room prayer and volunteer-led chaplaincy programs. As Lt. Governor, I will continue to fight for religious liberty across the state."
 
Chelsey Youman, Counsel for First Liberty, told Breitbart Paxton's opinion confirms that Texas judges can open courtroom session with prayer. She also explained that it stands as a strong indication that the FFRF will not be able to move forward with removing the practice from court proceedings. 
 
"All three branches of government have a long history of recognizing the role religion plays in society. We are grateful that the Attorney General's opinion reaffirms the constitutionality of Judge Mack's courtroom invocation and volunteer chaplaincy program," she said.
 

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