FFRF tightens security at a Wisconsin hospital (April 9, 2012)

The University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wis., will no longer allow Gideons International to unlawfully distribute bibles on public property, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt sent an advisory letter to UW Hospital President and CEO Donna Katen-Bahensky on March 22: “Permitting members of the Gideons or other bible distribution organizations the privilege of passing out their religious literature in the entrance of a state-run hospital constitutes blatant state endorsement of these Christian publications.” A local complainant noted that security officers regulated the area in question, but claimed they were unable to take any action because it was in “a public space,” even though it was by the main hospital entrance. Many of the security officers stated that “they were getting a lot of complaints” and admitted to being upset about the situation.

“A hospital entrance should be free from such distressing obstacles to ill patients and their worried relatives. Because of this undesirable result and the serious constitutional concerns that exits, the best policy would be to prohibit the distribution of any non-approved materials on the UW Hospital campus,” noted Schmitt.

Katen-Bahensky sent a positive reply to Schmitt on April 9: “In re-eduating our Security Department on the non-solicitation policy earlier this year, we did discover that there had been some confusion with respect to the Gideons, but that confusion has been clarified. All solicitors, including members of the Gideons, will be asked to leave the area if they are soliciting there.” FFRF had protested the practice on behalf of patients and staff, for many years. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation