Media infected by rogue Bible ban story bug - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
June 4, 2005

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Media infected by rogue Bible ban story bug

-04/06/05

It started with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trustís attempt to prevent the spread of MRSA infection in its hospitals. But thanks to the mediaís weak immune system for religious scare stories it soon developed into a full blown panic about an alleged Bible ban in Britainís hospitals.

The notion seems to have originated with a news agency report two days ago which said that hospital bosses in Leicester were considering moving Bibles from patientsí bedsides because of concerns about spreading the so-called superbug MRSA.

To add spice, an angle about the presence of hospital Bibles upsetting non-Christians was dropped in from an anonymous source. Soon the buzz on media street was of ëbedside bansí. Gideons International said it was ìpolitical correctness gone madî.

A Guardian headline on Thursday declared, ìSuperbug threatens Bible's place in hospitalsî. The Daily Telegraph preferred, ìëOffensiveí hospital bibles may be banned.î This unfortunately appeared on Google News as a straightforward ìbibles may be bannedî.

The bug soon spread internationally. US and South African outlets said that ìBritish hospital bossesî were involved, transmitting the ìbanî from Leicester to the whole country. An Indian paper then declared that ìBritain may pull hospital Biblesî.

In Canada, a pro-life news site decided that Leicester NHS Trust was ìpublicly declaring its political bias against Christianityî, and dragged in Hindu and Muslim spokespeople to condemn their bias against ìa Christian countryî.

However, back in the boring old world of fact, the Leicester NHS Trust clarified that while discussions were imminent about the safety of storing reading material in patientsí lockers, it was basically a matter for investigation and consultation.

So the issue was not about the Bible, it was about different ways MRSA could be spread through the potential attachment of bodily fluids to bedside objects. Questionable, maybe. But not deliberately vindictive.

The Trust emphasised that no decisions had been made and said that ìregardless of the outcome of the discussions, patients can be reassured that religious texts will continue to be made available at the trust's three hospitals.î

Many of the increasing number of stories omitted this information. The BBC reported it, though the headline ìBedside Bibles could be removedî might have created a different impression.

By yesterday morning the BBCís report (now entitled ìHospitals defend MRSA Bible moveî) included a response by Leicester NHS Trust representative Anne McGregor denying that they are preparing to remove copies of the Bible from their wards.

What was happening was that the Trust was considering where to put the books. Ms McGregor also contradicted reports that the move was prompted by concerns the Bibles might offend non-Christians.

ìWe are looking at safer storage Ö but we want to accommodate all types of religious material on the wards,î she explained.

The Guardian today blames a hospital chaplain who allegedly rebuffed Gideons for the debacle, and re-diagnoses the situation as ìpublic relations disasterî for Leicesterís hospitals.

Meanwhile the Bible ban story bug continues to be spread by journalists across the globe, with one media analyst suggesting to Ekklesia that it may reach Mars by next Wednesday.

MRSA stands for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and describes strains of an organism resistant to commonly used antibiotics. It has been a health hazard in Britainís hospitals for some time and became an issue in the recent general election campaign.

No Bibles were harmed in the writing of this report.

Find books now:

Media infected by rogue Bible ban story bug

-04/06/05

It started with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust's attempt to prevent the spread of MRSA infection in its hospitals. But thanks to the media's weak immune system for religious scare stories it soon developed into a full blown panic about an alleged Bible ban in Britain's hospitals.

The notion seems to have originated with a news agency report two days ago which said that hospital bosses in Leicester were considering moving Bibles from patients' bedsides because of concerns about spreading the so-called superbug MRSA.

To add spice, an angle about the presence of hospital Bibles upsetting non-Christians was dropped in from an anonymous source. Soon the buzz on media street was of ëbedside bans'. Gideons International said it was 'political correctness gone mad'.

A Guardian headline on Thursday declared, 'Superbug threatens Bible's place in hospitals'. The Daily Telegraph preferred, 'ëOffensive' hospital bibles may be banned.' This unfortunately appeared on Google News as a straightforward 'bibles may be banned'.

The bug soon spread internationally. US and South African outlets said that 'British hospital bosses' were involved, transmitting the 'ban' from Leicester to the whole country. An Indian paper then declared that 'Britain may pull hospital Bibles'.

In Canada, a pro-life news site decided that Leicester NHS Trust was 'publicly declaring its political bias against Christianity', and dragged in Hindu and Muslim spokespeople to condemn their bias against 'a Christian country'.

However, back in the boring old world of fact, the Leicester NHS Trust clarified that while discussions were imminent about the safety of storing reading material in patients' lockers, it was basically a matter for investigation and consultation.

So the issue was not about the Bible, it was about different ways MRSA could be spread through the potential attachment of bodily fluids to bedside objects. Questionable, maybe. But not deliberately vindictive.

The Trust emphasised that no decisions had been made and said that 'regardless of the outcome of the discussions, patients can be reassured that religious texts will continue to be made available at the trust's three hospitals.'

Many of the increasing number of stories omitted this information. The BBC reported it, though the headline 'Bedside Bibles could be removed' might have created a different impression.

By yesterday morning the BBC's report (now entitled 'Hospitals defend MRSA Bible move') included a response by Leicester NHS Trust representative Anne McGregor denying that they are preparing to remove copies of the Bible from their wards.

What was happening was that the Trust was considering where to put the books. Ms McGregor also contradicted reports that the move was prompted by concerns the Bibles might offend non-Christians.

'We are looking at safer storage Ö but we want to accommodate all types of religious material on the wards,' she explained.

The Guardian today blames a hospital chaplain who allegedly rebuffed Gideons for the debacle, and re-diagnoses the situation as 'public relations disaster' for Leicester's hospitals.

Meanwhile the Bible ban story bug continues to be spread by journalists across the globe, with one media analyst suggesting to Ekklesia that it may reach Mars by next Wednesday.

MRSA stands for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and describes strains of an organism resistant to commonly used antibiotics. It has been a health hazard in Britain's hospitals for some time and became an issue in the recent general election campaign.

No Bibles were harmed in the writing of this report.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.