Two days after Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued new orders requiring local governments not to prohibit people of faith from worshipping together, Dallas County and the city of Fort Worth have finally backed down.

On April 6, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins—who also serves as a spokesperson for the commissioners court—banned in-person worship in Dallas County. “In places with significant community spread like Dallas, in-person church services should be prohibited,” Jenkins said, adding that the governor and the CDC agree.

A day later, Fort Worth City Council unanimously extended the emergency declaration by Mayor Betsy Price that contained “stay home, work safe” restrictions. Among the restrictions was a ban on in-person worship, causing an uproar from the grassroots. Councilman Cary Moon claimed the ban was not present in the language that the council voted on. Councilman Brian Byrd disputed this. Mayor Price claimed the city was also under an order from Gov. Abbott. Eventually, the language was changed to allow people to worship from their cars in parking lots of houses of worship.

On April 21, Abbott and Paxton released new guidelines which stated in part:

“Local governments may not order houses of worship to close.”

Amid growing pressure from the grassroots, on April 23, Jenkins announced in a press conference that Dallas County’s ban was now dead.

“I’ll leave it up to each faith group and each faith leader what they would do,” he said.

Texas Scorecard immediately sent inquiries to Fort Worth City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider and the entire city council regarding Jenkins’ statement. Earlier that day, Price said the city’s “current restrictions in place” were still in effect.

Ten minutes later, we received an updated order from Price which removed the ban entirely and fell into line with Abbott and Paxton’s new order.

Fran Rhodes, president of True Texas Project, said, “I would like to thank mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth City Council for changing the city’s official disaster declaration regarding houses of worship. Clearly, the citizens of Fort Worth spoke up and the mayor and council listened. Protecting our God-given and constitutionally protected right to choose how, when, or where to worship is the right thing to do. Thank you for setting this straight.”

Fort Worth’s order (found here) takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 24 and expires on May 1.

Robert Montoya

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