Fifth Circuit determines practice in Texas judge’s courtroom is consistent with the nation’s rich historical tradition of opening judicial proceedings with invocations
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld Montgomery County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack’s practice of recognizing volunteer chaplains—including Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian religious leaders—who sometimes open court sessions with a brief invocation. First Liberty Institute and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represent Mack.
A copy of the opinion can be read here.
“The Fifth Circuit rightly concluded that Judge Mack’s brief ceremony respects a rich historical tradition of opening judicial proceedings with an invocation,” said Bradley
Hubbard, the Gibson Dunn attorney who argued the case in April. “As the Court explained, the ‘history, character, and context’ of Judge Mack’s ceremony ‘show that it is
no establishment at all.’ ” “I am eternally grateful to the judges on the Fifth Circuit who upheld this historical practice,” said Judge Mack. “I look forward to continuing to serve the people of
“America has a rich tradition of opening public meetings—including judicial proceedings—with an invocation,” Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty, said. “Welcoming a volunteer chaplain to lead an invocation according to the tradition of his or her faith reflects the very best of our nation’s values.” In July 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued a stay permitting Judge Mack, a Montgomery County Justice of the Peace, to continue allowing volunteer chaplains to offer invocations at the start of his court sessions while a lawsuit against him is considered. Mack, whose duties include serving as a coroner for Montgomery County, created a volunteer chaplaincy program, which includes leaders from a diverse array of faith traditions, to aid members of the community while he conducts independent death investigations. In his role as Justice of the Peace, Judge Mack allows the multi-faith, volunteer chaplains to open his courtroom ceremonies with a brief invocation and the pledge of allegiance in order to honor their service.
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