Hospitals Must Ensure that Patients Can Exercise Religious Rights

On October 20, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had resolved two religious discrimination complaints concerning clergy access to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, complainants alleged that hospitals had denied requests for clergy to have access to hospital patients to administer requested religious services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has emphasized that facilities must ensure patients have adequate and lawful access to chaplains or clergy during the COVID-19 pandemic in conformance with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Acting with OCR, the named hospitals developed revised religious hospital visitation policies to ensure that patients can freely exercise their religious rights while remaining in conformance with hospital safety and care policies and practices necessary to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

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