“But there are other times when they’re not even letting them in, and it’s extremely frustrating,” he said.
The Arizona Catholic Conference had worked with Nguyen on the 2021 law. Nguyen is helping raise awareness of the law and ensure clergy access, Johnson said.
The state Catholic conference is also working on another bill that Johnson said would “extend and possibly improve some of these protections” for places like care facilities.
CNA contacted Nguyen’s office for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
Arizona’s five bishops welcomed the law in May 2021.
“During the pandemic, too many people have died without the spiritual assistance or sacraments desired at the end of their lives,” said their May 5, 2021 letter, which was signed by Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson; Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix; Bishop Eduardo Nevares, auxiliary bishop of Phoenix; Bishop James Wall of Gallup; and Bishop John Pazak, of the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix.
At the time of their letter, the bishops lamented that there are places “where clergy are not able to have in-person visits that are requested by dying patients.”
Freedom of religious practice concerns at health care facilities led to some federal action during the pandemic.
In December 2020, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resolved an allegation of religious discrimination in New York after a Jewish man was denied access to a rabbi and kosher food.
Access to clergy resulted in the office resolving several complaints during the pandemic. Earlier in 2020, the office resolved complaints in Virginia and Maryland that resulted in hospital systems changing their visitation policies to allow for clergy visits.
In one of those cases, the Diocese of Arlington intervened on behalf of a dying Catholic Covid-19 patient who had been denied access to a priest because of hospital visitation policies. The HHS civil rights office worked with the hospital to allow a priest inside to visit the patient before death.
(Story continues below)
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