Concerns have been raised as to whether a dedicated Christian chapel will be included in the New Royal Adelaide Hospital. The concerns raised are understandable given that in the past chaplains of Christian denominations have been the primary providers of spiritual counsel, and churches and chapels were default contexts for such ministry. We recognise a range of views will be held across Christian churches, and the wider community.
However, the mix of faiths (or people of no faith) reflected in our multicultural community is now much more diverse. While the Christian presence is still significant, and numerically still the majority, we recognise that we are no-longer living in times of the Church receiving privileged status in public space, and nor do we seek such privileged or priority treatment in publicly funded facilities.
It is our understanding that the dedicated ‘sacred space’ provided in the NRAH complex is genuinely multi-faith, and no area is specifically designated for exclusive use of any particular faith tradition. More positively, it is our understanding that chaplains’ offices will be provided adjacent to this shared space, and effort has been made to facilitate the needs of all faith traditions. I have been advised that the ‘Sacred Space’ and the Multifaith Prayer Space have been designed to best practice standards for secular institutions.
It needs to be understood that secularism does not mean the removal of god (however understood) and religion from the public sphere. In Australia, secularism indicates that the ‘Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion...’ (S.116 of the Constitution). Our community has freedom of choice in such matters, and various Christian traditions are at liberty to advocate the merits of our beliefs, but we cannot expect any entitlement or priority treatment within publicly funded facilities.
Bishop Tim Harris
Anglican Diocese of Adelaide