The nonprofit foundation is joined in filing the suit by three people - a Christian lawyer, a lawyer who is not affiliated with a religion and an atheist who is not a lawyer but appeared before the judge – who say they felt pressured to participate in the morning prayer before Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack.
The suit says Mack locks the courtroom door for an invocation, monitors the body language of people who stay, and notices who leaves court before the prayer or knocks to re-enter after it. No other JPs hold prayer sessions or lock their courtrooms during business hours, according to the suit....
The courtroom participants who sued in federal court offer a different take on the facts. They say the judge, in his official capacity, has given an "unambiguous impression" that he endorses "religion over non-religion and Christianity over all other faiths."
"Judge Mack hypocritically touts the idea of religious freedom while simultaneously impinging on the religious freedom of those in his courtroom," said Sam Grover, lead attorney for the plaintiffs at Freedom from Religion, a Wisconsin nonprofit founded in the 1970s that advocates for the separation of church and state.
43. During the bailiff’s introduction, the chaplain-led prayer, and the courtroom business that follows , the courtroom doors remain magnetically locked. To exit, a person must push a button and reentry can only be granted by someone already inside the courtroom. Those seeking reentry after the prayers would need to draw attention to themselves by knocking on the courtroom doors. Because Judge Mack enters the courtroom after the bailiff’s introduction, he has ample opportunity to note who has entered his courtroom after the prayer.
44. Judge Mack is the only Justice of the Peace in Montgomery County, or indeed, any surrounding county, who locks his courtroom doors. Judge Mack began locking his courtroom doors at approximately the same time he revised his courtroom prayer practice.
45.Because the docket has already been called prior to the bailiff’s introduction to the prayer, all attorneys present in the courtroom have been logged. Judge Mack therefore has access to a record of those attorneys present in the courtroom prior to the bailiff’s announcement