North Dakota Catholic Hospital Creates Room to Accommodate Native American Ceremonies

July 31, 2005

Source: Knox News

Wire Service: AP

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On July 31, 2005 the Associated Press reported, "Sherman Iron Shield used to sneak his son behind some elevators at St. Alexius Medical Center so he could burn sacred herbs to chase away evil spirits without setting off the hospital's fire alarms and sprinklers... Now he and other members of the region's large American Indian population can follow their traditions without worrying about the fire alarms. On Thursday, the Roman Catholic hospital dedicated a $350,000 solarium and meditation room that may be used for such things as burning sage, cedar or sweetgrass, and for singing or drumming... The meditation room, 12 feet by 20 feet, is intended for people of non-Christian faiths, or those 'for whom the main chapel is not suitable,' said Sister Renee Zastoupil, the hospital's director of pastoral programs. The room features a window situated so Muslims can pray toward Mecca. Syed Hassan, a physician at St. Alexius, said he and the dozen or so other Muslim doctors at the hospital use the room for daily prayer. The hospital has published rules for use of the room. Peyote, used by some American Indian groups in ceremonies, and other drugs are prohibited, as is the 'practice of any religion or act which is diametrically opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.' The hospital lists 'Satanism, Wicca and Voodoo' as examples."