Miramichi Regional Hospital chapel

People in Miramichi are divided about a plan to install a curtain around the cross in the Miramichi Regional Hospital chapel. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

People in Miramichi are debating a new policy that will mean changes for the chapel at the Miramichi Regional Hospital.

Doreen Legere, the director of therapeutic services, says all religious symbols must now be portable in an effort to allow people of all faiths to be comfortable using the space.

Legere says part of that policy includes installing a curtain that can be pulled to cover the cross at the front of the chapel.

"And there was a couple of reasons for that," Legere said. "One is for people who don't want the cross there during their prayer time."

Legere says the other reason is safety related. She says people who don't want to see the cross have been putting a sheet over it.

'I feel fine about it, everybody has their own beliefs, cultures and heritage and you should be able to believe what you want.' - Miramichi resident, Jim Cavanagh

"For safety reasons with the light we'd like to have something that is going to be better for that."

John McKay is the only member of the Horizon Health Network board who voted against the new policy.

"My main concern is there's been no consultation with the public and there should have been before a policy was imposed."

McKay says by adopting the policy without public input, Horizon Health is going against past promises to be more transparent.

"We apologized for the lack of appropriate consultation leading up to this whole chapel controversy yet we still have decided there will not be appropriate consultation with the public before a policy is adopted," McKay said.

Opinion mixed in Miramichi

Many people in Miramichi say they support the changes to make the chapel more welcoming to people of all faiths.

"I feel fine about it, everybody has their own beliefs, cultures and heritage and you should be able to believe what you want," said Jim Cavanagh.

Meanwhile Mary Doyle isn't concerned about the new policy.

"They really should have the cross in the chapel but what they decide is what they decide — our choices don't really matter," she said.

But Jeannine Mazerolle and Alan Savoie don't think the new policy is necessary. 

"I think that's pretty stupid to me," said Savoie. "It's been that way for how long — why do it now."

"Cover the cross, why....it's God," said Mazerolle. "I think any kind of religion there's a cross maybe not on their church but in their faith God has been put on the cross."

Legere says the Miramichi Regional Hospital will host an education session to dispel myths about the policy in the coming weeks.