A crisis tends to strip away façades and reveal who we are and what we believe. At best, we become stronger as communities and a nation; at worst, we slip into fear and oppression.
What we need most now is principled leadership, not political opportunism. Unfortunately, too many Democrats and liberal special interest groups are embracing the COVID-19 crisis to restrain liberty and ram through fundamental changes to our republic.
Governors and mayors in some cities imposed draconian restrictions on faith and personal liberty that would make tyrants proud. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) ordered police to record the license plates of cars attending Easter church services, while at the same time allowing Kentuckians to shop in stores anonymously, even in liquor stores.
In Mississippi, City of Greenville officials broke up a midweek church service and fined everyone in attendance, despite the fact that the pastor preached from an empty sanctuary on an FM transmitter while his congregation parked in the church parking lot and tuned in on their radios.
Some local governments and Democrats in Texas have also tried to use the current crisis to advance their leftist agenda.
Texas Democrats, aided by their allies at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), seized upon the coronavirus pandemic to file lawsuits in Austin, Houston, and Dallas asking courts to release dangerous individuals from jail. Governor Abbott (R) issued an executive order prohibiting these releases to ensure that dangerous individuals are not released from jail without posting bail or bonds commensurate with their offenses. But, for the radical left, releasing killers, rapists, arsonists, and armed robbers into the community is more important than protecting the health and safety of law-abiding citizens.
In Dallas, the ACLU lawsuit would cause the release of Billy Chemirmir, one of Texas’s worst serial killers. Chemirmir is accused of murdering 12 women—all between ages 75 and 94—by smothering them to death and making off with their jewelry. A state court judge set his bail at $13.6 million, and the federal government filed an immigration detainer against him, which means he will most likely be deported if he ever sets foot outside a Texas jail again. But the ACLU wants a federal court in Dallas to set Chemirmir and those like him free because of the fear they may be exposed to COVID-19.
Lacking the votes necessary to change election laws in the legislature, the Texas Democratic Party is now improperly asking judges to change election laws. Texas law reserves the ability to vote by mail due to a disability to those individuals who are actually sick. Shortly after the pandemic hit Texas, Democrats marched into court to argue that anyone who fears they might get the coronavirus should be deemed “disabled” and allowed to vote by mail. Allowing anyone with a fear of the virus to vote by mail will increase voter fraud and dilute the ability of eligible Texas voters to have a fair say in upcoming elections.
Democrats want to prey upon our fear of the virus to achieve policy goals most Americans reject. Fear makes tyrannical leaders.
Instead of allowing fear to rule our lives, in times like these we need to remain grounded to our country’s founding principles—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Founders built our republic for times like these. States have the constitutional authority to protect the health and safety of their citizens. And the federal government can provide support and resources, which it has done from the start.
If we hold fast to these truths now, balancing our constitutional rights with the need to protect the health and safety of our communities, we will emerge as a nation stronger by trial, rather than destroyed by it.
Ken Paxton is the Attorney General of Texas