Coronavirus Hospital In Central Park Sparks Backlash Over Anti-LGBTQ Ties

The facility is operating in partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, a disaster relief organization founded by evangelist Franklin Graham.

The humanitarian group behind a coronavirus field hospital set to open Tuesday in New York’s Central Park has been hit with criticism stemming from its founder’s history of anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

Some 72 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian disaster relief group, were to mobilize at the temporary Central Park hospital. The 68-bed facility will be operated in partnership with New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, and is equipped with 10 ventilators.

On Monday evening, however, New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) called out Samaritan’s Purse on Twitter, pointing to the group’s founder Franklin Graham’s well-established opposition to LGBTQ rights.

Hoylman, in a statement, insisted that the evangelist and the Mount Sinai Health System be monitored to “ensure every single LGBTQ patient is treated fairly.”

Hoylman, who is gay, went on to note:

A Gothamist article published late Monday cited a “statement of faith” that appears on the Samaritan’s Purse website defining marriage as “exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

Needless to say, the disclosure got a frosty response from many prominent LGBTQ people and allies. Urging Graham to “show unity and kindness,” celebrity chef José Andrés wrote: “From atheist all the way to Muslims, Jewish, or Christians, Jesus would want us all to unite and help fight this virus. Black or white, gay or straight....JESUS loves us all equally!”

Added playwright Paul Rudnick: “God bless all healthcare workers, but vicious homophobe Franklin Graham is setting up a Central Park Samaritan’s Purse field hospital for Christian doctors and nurses who must agree to condemn gay marriage. This isn’t Christianity, medicine or humanity.”

A staunch ally of President Donald Trump, Graham has repeatedly sparked controversy for inflammatory remarks about the LGBTQ community. Previously, he’s suggested that welcoming LGBTQ people into churches or Christian households is akin to allowing Satan to “devour our homes.”

In 2014, he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBTQ agenda. Last year, he denounced former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a gay man of faith.

When contacted by HuffPost, a Samaritan’s Purse spokesperson responded with a copy of an open letter Graham wrote in response to Hoylman:

Regardless of my strongly held religious views — or actually because of them — Samaritan’s Purse treats everyone we help the same. We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status. We certainly do not discriminate, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that. Our doors at the Emergency Field Hospital in the East Meadow are going to be open to all New Yorkers who need our help.

We are here to save life, which is precious in God’s sight — and we do it all in Jesus’ Name. I hope you will be able to come by for a visit and see for yourself. This is a time for all of us to unite and work together, regardless of our political views. Let’s support one another during this crisis, and we pray that God will bless the efforts of all those battling this vicious virus.

New York City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer told Gothamist that the Central Park unit would be operated as a Mount Sinai facility, and as such, would be held to the hospital’s anti-discrimination policies.

“Our record on human rights is clear; and we are confident that the joint effort by Mt. Sinai and Samaritan’s Purse will save New Yorkers’ lives while adhering to the values we hold dear by providing care to anyone who needs it, regardless of background,” Meyer said.

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