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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Church appears unconcerned at infection risk from Bibles

A hospital Trust’s proposal to scrap the provision of Gideon Bibles in bedside lockers as a precaution against superbugs is being supported by the National Secular Society. The NSS is urging the Trust to resist objections from religious leaders who seem indifferent to the dangers that items passed from patient to patient can pose.

In a letter to the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, the NSS says it regrets attacks on the proposals from vested religious interests. The proposals to remove Gideon Bibles from bedside lockers represent common sense and essential precautions. The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham have said: “It is unsatisfactory that patients may now have to ask a nurse for a Bible to look at.”

But NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood, said: “It is absolutely essential that every precaution is taken to fight the spread of these horrific infections. It is almost unbelievable that the Church seems more concerned with spreading the word than preventing the spread of infection. Their objections must be disregarded for the sake of people who might become extremely, maybe fatally, ill from these infections.”

In the letter to the hospital authorities, Mr Porteous Wood said that unlike furniture or bedding, it is not possible to disinfect books without causing damage. The NSS has made these suggestions for reducing the risks:

  1. Religious charities are invited to provide Bibles, Korans etc for handing out to patients who request them but that these should be for the patients’ individual retention.
  2. If patients feel that reading material, whether a sacred text or not, is likely to be of comfort to them, they are permitted to bring a reasonable amount of their own with them to hospital.
  3. If patients have an unforeseen need for a Bible or other religious book, the hospital will endeavour to make it available on request.
  4. Patients’ reading material, including that provided, must not be offered to or used by other patients and must be taken home when the patient’s stay in hospital is over. Any religious books not taken home will be offered to a representative of the faith concerned.

Published Mon, 26 Jul 2010