The Catholic Church is ramping up a campaign against the planned takeover of Calvary public hospital.
The leader of the new church action group accused the ACT government of "religious bigotry" in its decision to compulsorily acquire the hospital from the Catholic group which runs it.
The campaign's leader, Father Tony Percy, said lawyers have been consulted.
"We will not be lying down. The government has got a fight on its hands," he said.
Father Tony said the ACT government wasn't running its existing public hospital - Canberra Hospital - well, so why, he asked, should it be trusted with a second. He cited a litany of recent reports of complaints about low staff morale and other problems there.
"Why would the ACT government want a second public hospital when it can't run its first? Why would the public have any trust in the ACT government running a second public hospital? It's madness," he said.
And he said the compulsory takeover of Calvary sets a precedent. "Who's next? Faith communities, health, schooling, community groups - which of them has the government got in its gun?" he said.
"Everybody needs to be aware of what the government is doing here."
He also questioned the ACT government's plan to build a new hospital for the north of Canberra at a cost of $1 billion. He said the organisation running Calvary had built a similar hospital in Adelaide for half that sum.
The archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has begun a petition, which it hopes will be signed by people of all faiths and none.
A webpage under the banner "Save Calvary Hospital Bruce" is up and running. It says:
"We are concerned especially that:
The ACT's Health Minister denied there was any religious motive for acquiring Calvary.
"I've had conversations with a couple of people within the Catholic healthcare sector to reassure them that this is not about a Catholic service or a faith-based service," Rachel Stephen-Smith said.
"We commission health services from Catholic organisations and faith-based organisations across the board."
But opponents of the takeover do not accept the assertion. They point to a parliamentary committee inquiry report, "Inquiry into Abortion and Reproductive Choice in the ACT", which was tabled less than a month ago.
"It is the committee's view that it is problematic that one of the ACT's major hospitals is, due to an overriding religious ethos, restricted in the services that can be delivered to the Canberra community," the report by three members of the Legislative Assembly said.
Calvary public hospital is run by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary. The official report said "that the ACT government needs to address what the committee perceives as an ethically fraught dependence on the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary for provision of health services".
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