State Senator Robert Mills talks about his recent legislation that would protect the religious liberties of hospital patients during the pandemic.

The Mills bill adds members of the clergy to the list of mental health support personnel allowed access to patients in hospitals, nursing homes and adult residential care homes during the declared public health emergency. The Benton Senator is also calling on Governor John Bel Edwards to sign an executive order to put the bill into effect until it can be brought before the Louisiana Legislature for consideration.

Senator Mills’ bill would require inpatient healthcare facilities to provide patient or resident access to members of the clergy for prayer, mental health support or religious counseling, the sacraments of Holy Communion, anointing of the sick, and last rites, and any other customary religious service that is normally offered to patients when not in a declared public health emergency.

The bill also gives protection to members of the clergy, as well as the inpatient healthcare facility. Mills explains that any member of the clergy who wishes to minister to a patient or resident must volunteer to enter the facility, submit to a health screening, wear the same personal protective equipment as the facility’s medical staff, sign a written waiver of liability, comply with all other safety requirements imposed by the facility, and not disrupt clinical care.

“Hospitals and nursing homes around the state are operating with inconsistent policies regarding patient access to clergy,” says Mills. “Without specific guidance from the state's Department of Health, they are unsure if or when they should allow such access."