The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took two important steps Tuesday to protect religious freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency’s Office for Civil Rights announced that patients at hospitals within the University of Maryland Medical System may receive visits by clergy amid the pandemic.
And, the office said, a medical student at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City may follow his religious belief by not shaving his beard despite having to wear a mask.
“We can protect people’s physical safety and their spiritual and emotional well-being at the same time,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Those two things are not in tension and when we protect both, we actually protect the mental health as well as the physical health.”
Religious liberty doesn’t cease to be a fundamental human right during a pandemic,” Ryan T. Anderson, a research fellow specializing in religious liberty at The Heritage Foundation, said in an email to The Daily Signal. “As these HHS resolutions demonstrate, we can combat COVID-19 and respect religious liberty.”