An East London council has angered local artists by requesting paintings to brighten up a bare ward with the condition that they must not be of churches.
In an unsolicited letter to local art groups Havering Council explained that it had to be “mindful of all religious denominations”.
But the artists have called the exclusion of church paintings “ridiculous” and say it has tainted a “lovely idea”.
The Council has said it was simply relaying orders from the matron of patient environment at Queen’s Hospital, Romford.
In the letter, the Council’s Arts Development Officer Jo Delaney wrote: “Whilst the building is spacious, it has many plain black walls which are crying out to be brightened up!
“The matron of patient environment is keen for local artists to use the space as a gallery.
“The hospital has asked artists not to submit paintings of churches as they have to be mindful of all religious denominations.”
One of the artists who received the letter, Roy Storey, phoned the Council to complain, and was told it was up to the matron if she wanted to exclude pictures of churches.
Local painter Beryl O’Brien said: “There are so many religious beliefs, why would they pick on churches?
“What about synagogues? A painting is a good picture because it is a good composition, not because of the religion.”
In February, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that hospitals were betraying their Christian roots.
In hospitals, he said, sensitivity to other faiths had “mutated into the closure of chapels, the retrenchment of a distinctively Christian chaplaincy and the advent of a doctrinaire multi-faithism”.
This had “little do with people of other faiths who have no objection to chapels and chaplains, as long as their own needs are met,” he said, “and everything to do with secularist agendas which marginalise all faith but seem especially hostile to Christianity”.
His article came in the wake of the case of Christian nurse Caroline Petrie who was suspended after offering to pray for a patient. She has since been reinstated.
Last month the National Secular Society called for NHS patients to be denied access to publicly-funded chaplains in hospitals.