Hospitals are for sick people. They are places of healing. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic tales of those on the front lines working tirelessly to save lives have created many headlines. The courage. The compassion. The collective will to save lives.
Yet in all this bravery and hard work, there is one hospital with a very different mission — a hospital that places ideology over all else. In the vastness of New York’s Central Park, a 68-bed field hospital opened April 6. The bright white spot amidst all the spring greenery was an obvious symbol of all that has gone wrong since COVID-19 spread through America. Only in a war are there field hospitals in cities.
Samaritan’s Purse has a well-known homophobic message. A hospital put up in just two weeks’ time should only help people, not spread a message of hate.
The global war right now is against one common enemy: the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. At press time, 824,069 Americans were infected, and 45,142 had died since the first case was identified on Jan. 22, 2020. Yet Samaritan’s Purse is still fighting a war against LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage.
The group that built this emergency hospital, and has built many similar hospitals in nations disrupted by natural disasters and wars, makes medical personnel and even volunteers sign a “statement of faith” that they are against same-sex marriage, which has been legal for five years.
The document states that anyone signing agrees that “we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female” and “human life is sacred from conception to its natural end.”
The Central Park field hospital has treated 130 patients with COVID-19 and has 90 staff. It is the first hospital Samaritan’s Purse has deployed in the U.S. Samaritan’s Purse works outside of and in conjunction with Mount Sinai Hospital, one of the nation’s largest and most respected hospitals, acclaimed internationally for excellence in clinical care. Mount Sinai serves one of the most diverse populations in the world. Including LGBTQ people.
How did Samaritan’s Purse, which is run by the infamous homophobe, Islamophobe and misogynist Rev. Franklin Graham, get such a sinecure in the midst of a pandemic? Graham has called gay people “the enemy” on many occasions. He has stated that the coronavirus pandemic is “a result of the sin that’s in the world.”
The field hospital was originally to be housed at St. John the Divine Cathedral. But when the Episcopal Diocese was made aware that Samaritan’s Purse would be running the hospital, the church refused, citing the group’s anti-LGBTQ stance.
New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-27th), who is openly gay and married, has requested that the Mount Sinai hospital network ask Samaritan’s Purse staff to sign a nondiscrimination agreement. Holyman said, “I do fear that we’ve given Franklin Graham a platform in one of the most famous pieces of public land in the country to spew his hatred of LGBTQ people, and unfortunately at the same time legitimize his homophobia.”
Defending the statement of faith, which he called “non-negotiable,” Graham said on Facebook: “We are an evangelical Christian organization, and we want to have people of like mind.”
Graham added, “If they agree with it, they’ll sign it, if they don’t agree with it, then they move on. That’s just who we are, and we’re not going to change who we are.”
Samaritan’s Purse claims they do not discriminate against anyone. Spokespersons for both Mayor DeBlasio’s office and Mount Sinai claimed the statement of faith was a “difference of opinion,” but said, “when it comes to COVID-19, we are fully united: we will care for everyone and no patients or staff will be discriminated against.”
The Episcopal Diocese rejected that claim. The city of New York should have done so as well. Samaritan’s Purse has used a pandemic to spread a hateful message at a time when unity and solidarity should be paramount.