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Diocese of Pueblo responds to mask requirement for Catholic churches

011921 DIOCESE OF PUEBLO

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Frustrations are still high for members of a Westcliffe Catholic church who tell us armed security guards pulled one worshipper out of mass on Sunday for not wearing a mask.

The Diocese of Pueblo recently implemented the rule out of safety for its parishioners. A spokesperson for the Diocese told us this has been an ongoing issue for the parish community of Our Lady of the Assumption in Westcliffe. They sent us the following statement:

The ushers have gently dealt with the matter over the past several weeks. We recognize the risks Coronavirus presents. No one is guaranteed an exemption from Coronavirus.

The Diocese of Pueblo

They say their decision was made in accordance with infectious disease experts, scientists, and Catholica Theologians. However, parishioners of the church question the legality of this requirement. Some may be confusing this situation with other recent court rulings saying the State can't shut down a church that chooses not to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Craig Konnoth, an associate professor of law at CU Boulder, says this instance is a whole other scenario. "They have no legal arguments, not a legal leg to stand on," Konnoth says regarding the worshipper's viewpoint. "It's a business exercising its ability to determine what people have to do to participate in the business." Adding just like how other businesses can set their own guidelines on what customers have to comply with to enter the Diocese can too.

To many who attend the church in Westcliffe, what really has them upset was the use of armed security guards. The Diocese responding to that as well saying:

"The need for some form of security in houses of worship is an unfortunate reality. The parishes across the diocese work with their local law enforcement agencies to develop a safety plan."

As for concerns that this mandate is interfering with an important Catholic sacrament, the Diocese says parishioners have options.

"Participating in Mass during the Coronavirus pandemic publicly or online is a way to unite ourselves with God during these times." 

The Pueblo Diocese also told KRDO they are in contact with members of the Westcliffe Catholic church about this situation and are scheduling a meeting to further discuss the issue.

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Chase Golightly

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