People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to choose their own expressions of spirituality, to practice those beliefs and expressions, and to participate in the religious community or other spiritual activities of their choice. The person also has a right to choose not to participate in religious or spiritual activity.
It is The Arc New York’s position that:
- Spirituality is an important part of human experience that may be expressed both through religious practice and through expressions of personal meaning and values. Thus, spirituality and religious preference should be part of all assessments of individual and family needs, interests, and strengths.
- Spirituality, spiritual growth, and religious expression that respect a person’s history, tradition, and current preference or choice are rights that should be honored by service systems and religious communities, as should the choice not to participate.
- The desires and interest of individuals and their families must be accommodated when assisting individuals to participate in spiritual activities of their choice including reading of religious material, playing religious music, and consideration for special dietary needs of individuals due to religious affiliations.
- Protections must be provided to assure that individuals are free from undue influence, proselytizing, direction or coercion to participate in any spiritual activity, religious group or sect.
- Faith communities should receive assistance from provider agencies and advocacy organizations to build their capacity to support and welcome people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families.
- Advocates must collaborate with local congregations to assure the availability of a wide variety of spiritual opportunities, including both integrated and specialized community services, social activities of congregations, at-home services and specialized on-site services.
- Funerals and memorial services on behalf of the deceased in provider agencies are encouraged and should be in accordance with the individual’s religious preference, whether clearly expressed or assumed by their regular attendance at a particular faith community. Memorial Services are also encouraged for the spiritual health of the deceased’s friends, family and staff.