Thursday, March 19, 2009

Out of Proportion

A chaplain at a hospice in Boca Raton has been told she can’t use the word “God” in public.

Chaplains still speak freely of the Almighty in private sessions with patients or families but, the Rev. Mirta Signorelli said: “I can’t do chaplain’s work if I can’t say ‘God’ — if I’m scripted.”

Hospice CEO Paula Alderson said the ban on religious references applies only to the inspirational messages that chaplains deliver in staff meetings. The hospice remains fully comfortable with ministers, priests and rabbis offering religious counsel to the dying and grieving.

“I was sensitive to the fact that we don’t impose religion on our staff, and that it is not appropriate in the context of a staff meeting to use certain phrases or ‘God’ or ‘Holy Father,’ because some of our staff don’t believe at all,” Alderson said.

I’m all for being sensitive to other people’s feelings about their own religion or their lack thereof, but this is a little too much. While there are times when some people might not like having to sit through a prayer, I’m sure they’re adult enough to do it without making a fuss. It’s like having to sit through grace before a meal at someone else’s home when they’re Catholic or whatever and you’re not. You nod and smile and politely appreciate their sentiments and beliefs and know that your own faith — or lack thereof — isn’t threatened by a little hand-holding and a few words.

On the other hand, I think the chaplain could have made her point without flouncing out of the room. It hands the Religious Right another talking point about how they are persecuted and despised for their beliefs — when in actuality its because they’re obnoxious and bigoted. They will leverage this into some kind of campaign, and the hospice should have seen it coming.

In the Quaker tradition, how about a little silence from both sides?