Dallas County Commissioner Judge Clay Jenkins has repeatedly tried to act as the ruler of Dallas County by attempting to force his will on everyone within it and each time he’s been put back in his place by everyone from the citizens of Dallas County to his own fellow commissioners.
Jenkins has now awakened the wrath of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who issued a warning to him and other officials in other Texas counties who are trying to illegally prevent Texans from living doing things such as attending church.
According to Paxton’s office, a warning was issued to three county judges and two mayors telling them to back off their make-believe thrones, or else there will be consequences:
Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued letters to three Texas counties (Dallas, Bexar, and Travis) and two mayors (San Antonio and Austin), warning that some requirements in their local public health orders are unlawful and can confuse law-abiding citizens. These unlawful and unenforceable requirements include strict and unconstitutional demands for houses of worship, unnecessary and onerous restrictions on allowing essential services to operate, such as tracking customers who visit certain restaurants, penalties for not wearing masks, shelter-in-place demands, criminal penalties for violating state or local health orders, and failing to differentiate between recommendations and mandates.
“Unfortunately, a few Texas counties and cities seem to have confused recommendations with requirements and have grossly exceeded state law to impose their own will on private citizens and businesses. These letters seek to avoid any public confusion as we reopen the state,” said Paxton in a statement. “I trust that local officials will act quickly to correct any orders that unlawfully conflict with Texas law and Governor Abbott’s Executive Orders.”
One such order from Jenkins was a restriction on houses of worship, which Paxton addressed first and foremost.
“It has come to our attention that Dallas County has issued a local public health order that exceeds the county’s lawful authority and that it is likely to confuse residents,” Paxton wrote Jenkins.
“Executive order GA-21 recognizes that “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship” are essential services,” reads the letter. “The governor’s order further recommends that religious services “be conducted in accordance with the joint guidance issued and updated by the attorney general and the governor.”
“Importantly, nothing in the governor’s order or the joint guidance mandates how religious services should be conducted,” it continued. “Your order conflicts with the governor’s order by mandating that houses of worship comply with the protocols referenced in your order, including potential limitations on the number of people who can attend religious services.”
Paxton’s threat soon came after.
“In addition, unlike the governor’s order, which respects the robust constitutional and statutory rights protecting Texans’ free exercise of religion, a local order that unlawfully tramples religious freedom exposes the county to legal liability. The federal and state Constitutions and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act ensure that Texans can worship freely exercise their religion according to the dictates of their own consciences, and not limited by the overbearing government action,” wrote Paxton.
Paxton also brings up other overreaches by Jenkins, including what is considered an essential business, the mandate on masks, and shelter-in-place orders.
You can read the letter for yourself here.
Jenkins has overplayed his hand on many occasions during this pandemic. At one point, his authoritarianism became so bad that his own board of commissioners unanimously voted to strip him of his unilateral powers. Soon after, his order to close stores like Hobby Lobby, whom Jenkins forcibly closed using police, was reopened in spite of his being against it so that Dallas County residents could finally make their own masks.