NCC Affirms Obama's Mandate for Gay Hospital Visits

The President of the National Council of Churches (NCC) confirmed President Obama's mandate on Thursday to allow homosexual partners hospital visitation rights, saying that the measure is "inline with what most Americans would affirm."

A statement issued on Friday by the Rev. Peg Chemberlin said that the president's memo "regarding respect for patients' rights, is simply that, a directive that tells hospitals to respect the rights of the patient to designate visitors."

"This is, I believe, inline with what most Americans would affirm," she added. "The patient gets to decide."

"There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital," Obama's memo said. "In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them."

"Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay," Obama said, noting the gay community as being "uniquely affected" since they are often "barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives."

The full text of the memo can be found here.

Obama's words were echoed by Chemberlin, who noted that, "Health care facilities are a significant part of community life. They are often the place where life emerges into community and where life passes out of community. However, often a patient's community doesn't fit the norm and so the loving care and kindness of the patient's community are kept from them."

"This memorandum restores the opportunity for such a community to be present," she said. "It allows the patient to name those who make up his or her community."

Chemberlin also noted that while the NCC's 36 member communions have different views on sexual orientation, they all "emphatically agree that as we said in a resolution in 1995 – 'The Church must stand with those persons whose human rights are abridged or denied on the basis of sexual orientation.'"

"Our affirmation of human rights gives us the perspective that the President's memorandum enhances the common good," Chemberlin said.

Encompassing a wide spectrum of American Christianity, the NCC's member communions represent traditions as varied as Protestant, Orthodox, Evangelical, Anglican, and African-American, historic peace churches and ethnic-language immigrant churches.

Views on homosexuality within the NCC's member bodies are also as varied, stretching from the far left with groups such as The Episcopal Church, to the ultra-conservative Greek Orthodox Church, who consider the "whole range of sexual activity outside marriage - fornication, adultery and homosexuality - are thus seen as not fitting and appropriate to the Christian way of life."

The NCC's 1995 resolution, which was approved unanimously by the group's General Board, says that, "actions in the name of religion frequently codify and legitimize violations of human rights particularly of persons living in multi-faith communities and persons of differing sexual orientation."

"Freedom, justice and peace are central Biblical themes. While the Bible is not a catalogue of rights, these themes are critical," the resolution continues.

"Human rights are implied as the scriptures express what it means to be assured of life in all its fullness."

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