New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., just erected a 68-bed emergency field hospital in Central Park. The tents will provide much-needed overflow beds for Mount Sinai’s Manhattan facilities, NBC News reports. But the city is facing widespread criticism, because an evangelical anti-LGBTQ+ organization called Samaritan’s Purse is in charge of the hospital.
Samaritan’s Purse is led by Franklin Graham, son of the evangelical Reverend Billy Graham. He has a long history of intensely anti-LGBTQ+ statements, often referring to gay and trans people as “pedophiles” who try to “recruit” children.
Already, the new hospital’s policies have drawn backlash. Graham put out a call for “Christian” medical professionals to staff the field hospital, which will require 60 to 70 doctors, nurses, and other staff. All volunteers at the hospital will be required to agree to the Samaritan’s Purse 11-point Statement of Faith, which explicitly condemns same-sex marriage.
If you are a Christian doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other medical professional interested in serving COVID-19 patients in our @SamaritansPurse Emergency Field Hospital in NYC, please visit https://t.co/EEw1jNtrrk. pic.twitter.com/5i7EeKxLDi
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 29, 2020
Graham has insisted that the organization will not treat patients differently because of their sexual orientation. “We certainly do not discriminate, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that,” he said in a statement to NBC News.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the controversy at a press conference on Tuesday, explaining that he wasn’t aware of the “troubling” history of Graham or Samaritan’s Purse until the hospital was already well underway. He subsequently spoke with the CEO of Mount Sinai system, who assured him that the hospital will only continue its relationship with Samaritan’s Purse if they adhere to the hospital’s antidiscrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. “We’re going to send people over from the mayor’s office to monitor,” de Blasio said.
While Graham has agreed not to discriminate against patients, he has also refused to drop the requirement that volunteers agree with the Statement of Faith. “We are evangelical Christians and we hire Christian men and women to work in our hospitals,” Graham said on Fox News host Todd Starnes’ radio show. “We are there in Jesus’ name. That’s just who we are. We don’t compromise on this issue.”