On the outside of a parking structure at the University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, there’s this giant religious banner:
Gracious Lord, for all of UMC I pray Your divine protection over them, guidance within them & provision for them, daily. — Reverend Wendell Davis.
Firm, not fearful.
Why is a public university promoting religion? Why is a hospital full of medical professionals who spent years getting trained in precise surgical methods suggesting that prayer will make the difference? While doctors and patients are free to pray if they’d like, this banner is out of place at a public hospital just like it would be at a public school.
That’s why the Freedom From Religion Foundation called for it to be taken down last month.
The University Medical Center serves all citizens regardless of belief or nonbelief. This message alienates the 24% of Americans who are non-religious. We urge UMC to recognize its obligation to provide all citizens with an environment free from religious endorsement by removing this exclusionary display…
FFRF also noted that the medical center created religious videos endorsing Christianity, like one that featured a chaplain urging people to trust Jesus… with the UMC logo at the end:
While patients are trying to receive care and employees are trying to work, many are forced to listen to preaching by someone who does not share their deeply held religious or nonreligious views. You can imagine how people would react if they were forced to listen to an Imam deliver a prayer to Allah. It is also bad medicine subjecting an ill, captive audience to unwanted proselytizing, adding to stress.
We ask that you discontinue UMC’s chaplaincy and cease creating and promoting religious videos. UMC should focus on providing secular care and support services to its patients and employees and leave determinations on religious support to individuals. UMC must also remove the religious banner from its parking structure. Please reply in writing outlining the steps that you are taking to address these constitutional concerns so that we may inform our complainants.
It worked. Kind of. The hospital now says the banner is coming down… but they’re not quite ready to eliminate the chaplain’s videos.
The hospital says it plans to remove the banner as part of its original plan, saying it was only supposed to be displayed temporarily during the pandemic.
Regarding the chaplain program and its practices, [UMC President and CEO Mark] Funderburk stated that “before and since the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to UMC, no patient, employee or visitor has been compelled to participate in any expression or practice of faith.”
“Like many hospitals, University Medical Center has a chaplain program designed to improve patient’s health and well-being,” he continued.
“These professionals skillfully and compassionately attend the spiritual and emotional needs, and support the health and welfare of UMC’s patients, staff, and visitors.”
Funderburk is missing the point. There’s nothing wrong with having a chaplaincy program as long as those chaplains can help all patients and, in effect, speak their language. That’s a far cry from making videos with the hospital’s stamp of approval promoting a Christian-specific message. (Where’s the Islamic version of that video? The Humanist version?)
It’s not clear yet how FFRF will respond.