JEFFERSON, Wis. — A Jefferson County nursing home will have a hearing this week to discuss whether it should remove a cross and altar from its multipurpose room.
“This is a sensitive issue with many competing interests,” Jefferson County Board Chairwoman Sharon Schmeling said of the religious items at the Countryside Home.
She said the home’s trustees will not take any action on the issue at the hearing Thursday.
“Its goal is to provide maximum opportunity for public discussion so we have a sense of what the community wants its elected and appointed officials to do in this very delicate situation,” she said.
The hearing was scheduled after a Jefferson man questioned whether Countryside’s chapel should have religious symbols on a regular basis. The chapel, when opened up with an adjoining community meeting room, becomes a multipurpose room that often is used by the public.
“We have to balance the public’s input with our legal obligations to the nursing home’s residents,” Schmeling said.
“They have a constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion and since they are unable to leave the nursing home, we have a legal obligation to provide them with the means to practice their faith,” she said.
Jefferson resident John Foust said he was shocked when he attended a Feb. 10 mayoral forum at Countryside and saw the cross and altar behind the candidates.
“It made this public place feel like a Lutheran church,” Foust said, questioning the situation under the separation of church and state called for under the Constitution’s First Amendment.
I wonder if we could sue some of our churches because they make you feel like you are in a public place. This part of the article really made me laugh “Jefferson man questioned whether Countryside’s chapel should have religious symbols on a regular basis.” Why should a chapel have religious items in it? Does this guy also complain that there is art in an art museum.
Leave it to the reporters to mis-state the issue. A goofed-up story in a local paper gets re-distilled into an AP wire story. What do you expect? A better explanation is on my web page. There’s no law suit yet. This new nursing home has a multi-purpose room instead of a chapel, and they spent $6,000 in public funds to purchase a $1,000 cross and a $3,000 remodeling to make an altar, plus a $2,000 lectern. See the pictures on my web page. There is remarkably little advice or precedent about whether a public facility can have a separate chapel, as well as exactly what can be placed in that chapel. Should it be a purely secular place, devoid of symbols on the wall? Is a wall of eighteen different symbols just as neutral or just as offensive to every other religion there? The multi-purpose room has art, too – like four $4,000 sand-blasted glass windows representing “The Tree of Life.”
Comments are closed.