A Texas-based hospital is facing scrutiny from an atheist legal organization for displaying a banner featuring a prayer for God’s protection and distributing chaplain videos promoting Christianity.
According to The Christian Post, a letter was sent late last month from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation to The University Medical Center of Lubbock, Texas, calling for the removal of the banner.
The organization is known for pressuring government entities across the nation into removing any perceived endorsement of religion by citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits governments from establishing an official religion.
The banner features the following prayer by Rev. Wendell Davis of Lyon’s Chapel Baptist Church: “Gracious Lord, for all of UMC I pray Your divine protection over them, guidance within them & provision for them daily. … Firm, not fearful.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Christopher Line wrote the letter to UMC President and CEO Mark Funderburk, calling the banner display “an unconstitutional endorsement of religion over nonreligion.”
“We urge UMC to recognize its obligation to provide all citizens with an environment free from religious endorsement by removing this exclusionary display,” Line stressed.
The letter also notes that a concerned UMC member “has reported that the Medical Center creates videos featuring chaplains that promote and endorse Christianity.”
“By publishing overtly Christian messages, the University Medical Center violates the Establishment Clause,” Line argued. “When a public hospital regularly promulgates religious concepts to employees and the public, it sends a message that the government supports those ideas.”
In a statement provided to The Christian Post, Funderburk asserted that the banner will be taken down in the “near future.” He noted that it was supposed to be displayed temporarily in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“UMC Health System recognizes diversity in our workplace and in our patient population. UMC Health System also understands the delicate balance between the free exercise of religion and government neutrality,” the statement reads.
“As per our original plan to replace the banner once our COVID-19 census diminished, it will be removed in the very near future and replaced with a new message of support, as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Regarding the chaplain program, however, 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.”