According to the blog post below by Barry Duke at the Patheos site TheFreeThinker, and also from an article in the Otago Daily Times, a new hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand decided it would devote its chapel space to a multifaith facility rather than a Christian one. This has pissed off a lot of Christians, including the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, all of whom petitioned the Health Board to guarantee there would be a Christian chapel. No dice—the facility doesn’t have sufficient space. Read for yourself, especially the ludicrous justification for a specifically Christian chapel in the hospital.
Have a look at this one:
An excerpt from the paper (my emphasis)
. . . a petition signed by 52 people, mainly leaders of Presbyterian congregations across the South, but also including the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, the Right Rev Stephen Benford, seeks assurance from the health board that a Christian chapel and an office for chaplains be given priority for the new hospital.
The signatures are attached to a letter to New Dunedin Hospital programme director Hamish Brown, from Leith Valley Presbyterian Church minister the Rev Richard Dawson, which calls for hospital planners to revisit their plans and include a “discernable Christian presence” in the new hospital.
“Hospitals and the health systems in which they operate can largely be said to be an invention of the church and they certainly rely on values espoused by the church throughout its 2000-year history,” Mr Dawson writes.
“More than this, however, is the concern that the Christian faith will not be primarily represented within a city founded on Christian principles and a country in which, still, the largest group of people claiming religious adherence are Christian.”
He argued non-denominational chaplains at the new hospital would administer to the spiritual needs of anyone using the hospital, but said the nature of modern hospitals was due to the impact of Christian churches on ancient military hospitals.
And he asked that “the faith tradition upon which this nation and this city have relied on to guide them in forming an holistic health system be duly recognised”.
This is pathetic. While I don’t mind that they create a place to worship the supernatural in a hospital—after all, hospitals are places of grief and pain, and for those who are religious there’s no harm in creating a quiet for meditation or prayer—I do mind them prioritizing Christianity. And the rationale for that—that Christianity invented hospitals—would be ludicrous even if it were true. But it doesn’t seem to be true, as you find out quickly when you consult the Wikipedia article on “hospital”:
In early India, Fa Xian, a Chinese Buddhist monk who travelled across India c. AD 400, recorded examples of healing institutions. According to the Mahavamsa, the ancient chronicle of Sinhalese royalty, written in the sixth century AD, King Pandukabhaya of Sri Lanka (r. 437–367 BC) had lying-in-homes and hospitals (Sivikasotthi-Sala). A hospital and medical training centre also existed at Gundeshapur, a major city in southwest of the Sassanid Persian Empire founded in AD 271 by Shapur I. In ancient Greece, temples dedicated to the healer-god Asclepius, known as Asclepeion functioned as centres of medical advice, prognosis, and healing. The Asclepeia spread to the Roman Empire. While public healthcare was non-existent in the Roman Empire, military hospitals called valetudinaria did exist stationed in military barracks and would serve the soldiers and slaves within the fort. Evidence exists that some civilian hospitals, while unavailable to the Roman population, were occasionally privately built in extremely wealthy Roman households located in the countryside for that family, although this practice seems to have ended in 80 AD.
So much for that, but even if the very first hospital was constructed by the Christian church, that gives Christians no priority over other faiths in having a dedicated place of worship in a hospital. As for the “faith tradition” of the country and which is supposedly majority Christian, well, the paper adds this:
[Hospital Programme Director Hamish Brown’s] report noted that between the 2006 and 2018 censuses the number of Otago people who identifed as Christian dropped from more than half (54.1%) to about a third (33.4%).
Those identifying with no religion rose from 38.8% in 2006 to 55.8% in 2018.
It seems to me that they need a Secular Center, not a Christian one!