119 views | 2 | Last updated on May 22, 2020 COVID-19
The library has received questions about whether or not there are any Texas statutes that address the wearing of masks in public. We have been unable to locate any current Texas statutes that discuss the wearing of masks or disguises in public. However, there was an anti-mask law in Texas that was passed in 1925 and repealed in 1974. At the time, the law was codified as Article 454a-g of the Texas Penal Code.
Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson signed the anti-mask bill into law during her first term in office in response to a rise in activity from the Ku Klux Klan, whose members are known for wearing masks and hoods. The KKK was experiencing a resurgence in membership in the 1920s with tens of thousands of members in Texas who spread terror across the state and wielded great political influence. Several other states also enacted anti-mask laws in response to the KKK.
Some portions of Texas's anti-mask law were challenged in the courts and at least one article was ruled to be in violation of the Texas Constitution. In 1929, a court case challenged Article 454c, which prohibited demanding entrance to a house or disturbing the inhabitants of a house while wearing a mask or disguise. As a result of this case, Art. 454c "was held in violation of Const. art. 1 sec. 10 as failing to definitely and clearly describe [the] offense." Despite this and other legal challenges, portions of the law were still used to prosecute Texans for many years to come. The anti-mask law was repealed in 1974 during the re-codification of the Texas Penal Code.