Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians

A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.

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Can't List Pagan on Hospital Intake Forms

If you're old enough, you may remember a television cartoon series from the 1950's called "Crusader Rabbit." He was, as I recall, sort of a Don Quixote-type character - tending to tilt at windmills which most folks would judge imaginary or not worth the effort. Whether that memory is correct or not, it's the way I often feel. Very few people ever seem to share my sense of injustice at the little subtleties in our culture.  

My wife and I receive healthcare in Arizona from the Banner Health organization. Banner is one of the largest healthcare conglomerates in the U.S., managing hospitals and medical practices all over the country. Yet, when we are admitted into the hospital for a procedure and are asked on the intake form to indicate whether we have a religion of choice, only certain ones are on their computer list and they do not include Pagan, Neopagan or Heathen. Most surprisingly, in light of recent acknowledgment by the Armed Forces and the Prison system, the Banner list doesn't even have Wiccan! (We are not Wiccan, strictly speaking, but it's close enough for Jazz. We'd take it.)

Nor can we override the system to have our religious beliefs typed-in. The closest they will allow are Other or Unknown! Kind of insulting. 

This restriction of choice strikes me as odd for a non-profit, non-religious hospital system. I might expect such an attitude from a hospital supported by donations from a specific religious group - Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Baptist etc. But, in point of fact, such institutions tend to be wonderfully open-minded in accepting patients of all faiths. 

We usually let stuff like this slide; life is hard enough as it is, and we have far more important issues on which to spend our energy. However, if either of us has to go into hospital for something really serious and scary, it might be comforting to have a cleric of our general persuasion come by the room for a visit. A cleric who won't try to convince us to come back to Holy Mother Church before it's too late to save our souls.

Our hospital has a nice Chaplain who had, at least, heard of Neopaganism - but he did not seem inclined to buck the bureaucracy on our behalf, to get it added to the list. Actually, I got the impression that he had some prejudice concerning the religious or moral legitimacy of Neopagan unions. He asked how long we had been together, and registered obvious surprise when I told him "32 years." 

He didn't need to know that Ravyn and I didn't start out Neopagan, but only came to it a few years ago. It wasn't any of his business, and what difference should that make, anyway? We would still be together regardless of what faith we embraced. Couples either last or they don't. Their religion has very little to do with it. 

Such prejudice only distracts from the point - which is that all people admitted to hospital should have the right to indicate their religion, if they so choose, without judgment or censorship. I'm wondering if the bodies that are already lobbying for recognition of Wicca and Pagan beliefs in other sections of our society would be interested in adding hospitals to their list.

Anne Newkirk Niven informs me that Lady Liberty League is the group I need to contact. I suppose I will make inquiries there; but I have neither the time nor the energy to mount a crusade of my own. This rabbit has other carrots to grate.






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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England.


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Tuesday, 03 September 2013

    There are so many reasons to complain about the medical monopoly that this is hardly the biggest problem.

    I was first struck wondering why a hospital would feel the need to inquire into someone's religious beliefs. Is their medical treatment going to depend on whether you are Catholic, Jewish, or Pagan? Do Jewish patients get separate dishes for meat or dairy with a lunch from the hospital food service? Or is it information needed so when they accidental kill the patient they will know what funeral rites to do with his body?

    My second thought was about how long the list needs to be before "other" is appropriate. Do they need to list the 6 most common religions, or the 12 most common religions, or the 120 most common religions before the rest of us can put "other." I'm not sure that pagan or heathen would make the top 12 list. Maybe pagan might be in the top 120 list. Is that too much to ask?

    Suppose they had a 120 list of religions to choose from. How many of the hospital staff will be able to explain the difference between all 120? How many hospital staff can explain the difference between the top 12? If they don't know the difference, what purpose does the question serve other than to be another unreasonable and unnecessary intrusion into our private lives?

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 03 September 2013

    I appreciate your frustration with the medical monopoly, Greybeard, as well as your points about dietary restrictions (and yes, I do believe there are kosher meals); but I don't see this situation as being so complicated. As a cleric myself, I think the purpose of the question is simply to alert a Chaplain or Priest or Rabbi or Druid that a spiritual support visit has been requested. It is not necessary for other hospital staff members to know anything about it, nor is it incumbant on the patient to reveal his religion if he feels it is an intrusion. And while I got a good chuckle over your tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the hospital wants to know your religion so it can perform the proper funeral after it kills you, of course such matters are left to other parties after your body has been released to them.

    Why have a numbered list of religions to choose from, at all? Why not just allow the patient to write-in whatever he wants? Problem solved.

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