In addition to a mask mandate on city property, Farmer’s Branch is mandating citizens show proof of receiving a Chinese coronavirus vaccination in order to use a particular city facility. Councilmember Terry Lynne said there are “no exceptions” for the vaccine mandate, not even on religious or medical grounds.

The Branch Connection (TBC), an “active adult center” run by the City of Farmer’s Branch in North Texas, offers exercise and computer classes, arts and crafts, as well as Monday Night Dances, among other opportunities. It also offers a monthly meals program and a weight room for its members.

The facility reopened this week after being closed nearly a year. On its website, TBC posted its “COVID-19 Safety Protocols.” Among them is a mask mandate and a requirement for members to show proof of having received a vaccination 14 days before entering.

At Tuesday evening’s city council meeting, City Manager Charles Cox laid out how their mask mandate will be enforced.

“The only avenue we have for us is for an employee of either facility to file a criminal trespass charge against that resident, and then the police would come and arrest the resident,” he told councilmembers. “It’s not like the City of Farmer’s Branch versus John Doe, it would be the employee would have to individually file that criminal trespass.”

Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order ending his mask mandate states:

No jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings, except that a legally authorized official may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.

Texas Scorecard sent press inquiries to Mayor Robert Dye and the entire city council regarding the vaccine mandate, asking if council authorized it, the purpose for it, if there are any medical or religious exceptions, how long this policy will be in place, and if vaccines are being mandated before using other public properties.

Dye and councilmembers were also asked if the city is offering anything for those who cite a religious or medical exemption for vaccination, or if the city is discriminating against such individuals.

Councilmember Terry Lynne brought up the question of exceptions, and residents being unable to receive a vaccine, at city council’s meeting last night.

“I think those factors need to be considered,” he told Dye and his fellow councilmembers. “There are some residents who feel strongly about this, and I frankly didn’t know what to tell them.”

“There are those who haven’t been able to get shots, or have flat out said they’re not getting it,” he continued. “And if they choose not to get a shot, does that mean they’re going to be banned from the building until such time as we deem it safe to not have the vaccine?”

Only Lynne replied to our questions before publication.

“No exceptions,” he said. “The City does not believe that it is discriminating against residents but rather being overly cautious/protective of the most at-risk population. The combination of having at least one shot and waiting 14 days to be able to enter TBC, along with wearing a mask, puts an individual at about 80% guaranteed not to be hospitalized or at the risk of death.”

“The Mayor cited health reasons,” Lynne continued. “Last night at the Council meeting, the City Manager said it was to protect the most ‘at-risk’ population.”

“While we appreciate the concern for vulnerable populations, Councilmember Terry Lynne is misinformed that there is substantial data to support the city’s strategy,” Jackie Schlegel, executive director of Texans for Vaccine Choice, told Texas Scorecard. “In fact, until the vaccine trials end in 2022/2023 AND full FDA approval has been granted, the Emergency Use Authorization prohibits the City from conditioning use of this facility based on vaccination status.”

“Additionally, most Texans agree these medical decisions are best left to the individual in collaboration with their chosen medical provider,” she continued. “Texans for Vaccine Choice stands with ALL Texans in the right to choose medical procedures without the heavy hand of government mandating pharmaceutical products, especially ones with zero liability.”

Lynne said the council originally did not authorize the policy, but later a majority did approve it.

“The policy was authorized by The Mayor about 2 weeks ago, not the Council,” Lynne wrote in his reply to Texas Scorecard. “I was not aware of it till I saw the notice in the Branch Bulletin.”

We did have discussion last night to consider relaxing the requirement for TBC but council voted 3-2 to leave the order in place and require the wearing of masks at all city facilities for the next 90 days.

Councilmembers John Norwood and Lynne were the two votes against.

Lynne adds that because of last night’s vote, the policy will remain “at least for the next 90 days.”

Lynne also addressed if the vaccine mandate is required at other public facilities.

“We did not discuss vaccines with respect to other facilities, however, our mask requirement will remain in place for the next 90 days,” he said. “Masks will be required at all city facilities.”

In December, Gov. Abbott said “vaccines in the state of Texas are voluntary, never required.”

Concerned citizens may contact Mayor Dye and Farmer’s Branch city council, as well as their state representative and state senator.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.