An atheist group from Wisconsin was reported to have demanded a Texas hospital to remove a banner posted in its vicinity that contains a prayer to God for protection during this pandemic.
The Christian Headlines said Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a demand letter last May to Lubbock, Texas' The University Medical Center for distributing videos promoting Christianity and for featuring a banner that contains a prayer by Lyon Baptist Church Rev. Wendell Davis. The prayer asks for God's "divine protection" to be given to "all of UMC," as well as to provide them "guidance within them and provision for them daily."
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a non-profit that advocates for atheists, agnostics and non-theists, and pushes for separation of church and state, said through its letter that the banner was "an unconstitutional endorsement of religion over nonreligion."
The letter was addressed to The University Medical Center President Mark Funderburk and signed by FFRF Staff Attorney Christopher Line. The letter pointed out that a UMC member has brought the matter to FFRF since the hospital itself was said to create the videos that promote Christianity and features the chaplains on it.
"We urge UMC to recognize its obligation to provide all citizens with an environment free from religious endorsement by removing this exclusionary display. By publishing overtly Christian messages, the University Medical Center violates the Establishment Clause," Line said in the letter.
"When a public hospital regularly promulgates religious concepts to employees and the public, it sends a message that the government supports those ideas," he stressed.
In a June 9 news release, FFRF said it is urging the hospital to cease its "unconstitutional religious promotion" through the banner displayed in the employee parking space that various individuals including a UMC employee has complained about. FFRF pointed out that federal courts have prohibited such display of religious materials by "government employees on government property because such restrictions exist to avoid Establishment Clause violations."
The FFRF cited in its news release that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has raised the need to control the materials posted in public property. This is on top of the video the hospital creates that endorses a certain Chaplain Larry Cothrin that provides a Christian message that, "God is a great God," and that "God is in control" so that patients are encouraged to endure their suffering while in the hospital. FFRF pointed out that chaplains and other government employees are bound by the First Amendment and are "liable for their constitutional violations."
"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. One can imagine how people would react if they were forced to listen to an imam deliver a prayer to Allah," the statement said.
"FFRF is asking the University Medical Center to discontinue its chaplaincy and cease creating and promoting religious videos. It must also remove the religious banner from its parking structure," it added.
The FFRF, which advocates for the removal of Christianity, from public establishments, also filed for courts to stop a Texas judge from opening courtroom meetings with prayers. A local judge ruled in the atheist group's favor.