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Abp. Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.United States Conference of Catholic Bishops / YouTube

November 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky is standing firm along with other Kentucky bishops in keeping Catholic churches open in the face of Governor Andy Beshear’s non-binding request that houses of worship close during a tightening of gathering restrictions lasting through Dec. 13.

Kurtz, who likewise rejected the governor’s request to close houses of worship for two weeks in August, told WDRB News that he and other state bishops “will not be suspending public liturgies, but encourage all to act in a responsible way that respects the seriousness of this pandemic.”

He pointed out that they would continue to provide virtual streaming of the Church liturgy, as well as dispense Catholics from their Sunday Mass obligation.

Kurtz suspended Masses earlier this year along with other U.S. bishops, citing CDC guidance advising against the gathering of groups of 50 or more people.

Governor Beshear announced Wednesday that he is clamping down on public and private gatherings in order to “slow” the COVID-19 virus. Schools and indoor dining will be closed, while attendance at gyms, offices, weddings, funerals, and even at private indoor family gatherings is restricted, per Beshear’s executive order.

Beshear’s request that houses of worship also close is a recommendation rather than a mandate. In May, a federal judge ruled Beshear’s previous ban of church gatherings unconstitutional after attorneys for Tabernacle Baptist Church argued that the ban “discriminated against the free exercise of religion.” They pointed out that gatherings were allowed in private businesses, as well as during the governor’s daily briefings, at the same time that church gatherings were prohibited.

Many churches in Kentucky have been continuously streaming their services virtually instead of opening for in-person worship. WDRB News reported that Pastor Tim Findley, Jr. of Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center strongly supports Governor Beshear’s recent request. “I think it’s irresponsible for any faith leader to bypass these kinds of recommendations,” said Findley.

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that Beshear’s new restrictions came amid a “record-breaking day” of 3,649 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, with a positivity rate of 9.18 percent. “The governor also reported 30 new coronavirus-related deaths. It was the state’s second-highest COVID-19-related death toll for a single day.”