Catholic hospital defies Bible ban

Ballarat Health Services and St John of God Hospital yesterday confirmed that Bibles remained in lockers next to beds despite a national trend to ban them from hospitals.

The Courier reports that Ballarat Health Services chief executive officer Andrew Rowe said Bibles were available to all patients.

"We have a very good working relationship with all the churches and religious groups in Ballarat and they give us terrific support by providing priests, ministers and pastoral care workers to support patients," he said.

St John of God Director of Mission Maureen Waddington said she could "not imagine a time" when Bibles were not placed next to beds.

The decision on whether to ban Bibles from hospital bedside tables is made on a hospital-by-hospital basis. But Gideons International, which supplies Bibles for hospitals and hotels across the world, revealed many hospitals in Australia have already banned Bibles or were planning to do so.

Ms Waddington said the private Catholic hospital also catered for a "whole range of religions" with Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church pastoral services available.

"We make no apologies for being Catholic but if someone asked for a copy of the Koran we would get that too," she said.

Ms Waddington said she was surprised at the Bible ban at other hospitals but was sure time and effort had gone into the decision.

"In the world of being politically correct all sorts of decisions are made," she said.

Almost all of Melbourne's main hospitals have withdrawn Bibles. Royal Melbourne Hospital spokesman Rod Jackson-Smith said the Bible was not banned but they were no longer available in every room.

"Because we have so many people from different religious backgrounds it is considered inappropriate," he said. "It is also an infection-control measure."

Hospitals and health services that have removed Bibles include the Royal Melbourne Hospital, The Royal Children's, Austin Health, The Alfred, Monash Medical Centre, Box Hill, Maroondah, Dandenong and Casey.

In Brisbane, the Sunday Mail reports that the Royal Brisbane and Women's and Princess Alexandra hospitals are among the first to stop the Gideons testaments being left in patients' bedside tables.

Staff said the Bibles were no longer in keeping with the "multicultural approach to chaplaincy", while some claimed the Bibles were removed because they were a source of infection.

Hospital spokeswoman Tanya Lobegeier said: "If someone has a cold or anything and uses the Bible their germs could be passed on to the next person who reads it.

"No one wants to go in the drawer to clean a Bible after every single person leaves."

Gideons International Australia executive director Trevor Monson blamed the move on political correctness.

Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jalal agrees, saying the ban was unnecessary.

"It is ridiculous to think that we might be offended by seeing a Bible in a drawer - it is an example of multiculturalism gone mad," he said. "Part of being a Muslim is that you have to be accepting of all religious texts."

Bibles to stay, say hospitals (The Ballarat Courier 15/5/06)
Anger over Bible bans in hospital (Sunday Mail 14/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St John of God Ballarat

Church win on access to hospital chaplains (CathNews 26/9/05)
NSW Govt "backflip" on hospital chaplaincies (CathNews 11/2/05)
ACU report clarifies role of hospital chaplains (CathNews 27/6/05)
Catholic patients "denied access" to chaplains (CathNews 26/11/04)

Bible bans in Victorian hospitals and schools (National Nine News/Australian Associated Press 14/5/06)
Anger over hospital bible ban (Sunday Mail 14/5/06)
Editorial: An article of faith (Sunday Mail 14/5/06)

15 May 2006