Franklin Graham Says of His Central Park Field Hospital ‘We Don’t Discriminate Against Anybody We Help’

Workers prepare a 68-bed Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital specially equipped with a respiratory unit in New York’s Central Park, March 30, 2020. Photo by Moskowitz/Globe/MediaPunch/IPX

It was a culture clash waiting to happen.

Almost as soon as Samaritan’s Purse assembled a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park’s famed East Meadow,  New Yorkers sounded the alarm about the evangelical humanitarian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham.

Pointing to the conservative Christian organization’s statement of faith, which all its health care specialists are expected to sign, they wondered if LGBTQ patients would be treated equally.

The 11-point statement of faith declares, “we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

Many New Yorkers were outraged. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he found it “extremely troubling” that Graham’s organization was involved in the city’s relief effort, and Mayor Bill De Blasio, a champion of LGBTQ rights, was immediately pressed to ensure the relief organization was “truly consistent with the values and the laws in New York City.”

Graham, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and a fierce supporter of President Donald Trump, immediately set out to clarify the matter. Although all Samaritan’s Purse heath care workers (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians) must sign the statement, he told Religion News Service: “We don’t discriminate against anybody we help.”

“We provide our services to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. We don’t discriminate. Period.”

The field hospital housed in a series of white tents is intended as a Christian mission. The idea is to treat overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital as it grapples with a surge of coronavirus cases. The prestigious medical center on Fifth Avenue and 98th Street does not have oversight over the field hospital.

Some 391 people in New York state died of the coronavirus Tuesday (March 31) alone. That brings the total number of people in the state infected with the virus to 47,349, with about 12,226 hospitalized.

De Blasio said he would send people over from the mayor’s office to monitor the Central Park hospital. New York Attorney General Letitia James added in a statement, “We will remain vigilant to ensure discrimination does not occur at this — or any other — facility.”

New York City is regarded as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the United States. Last year, the city passed an ordinance that allows a third gender option, “X,” on birth certificates, giving transgender and gender-nonconforming city residents new recognition.

Samaritan’s Purse, the 50-year-old organization founded by Graham, who is also the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is used to working in more socially conservative developing countries. It is based in Boone, North Carolina, and hews to conservative evangelical beliefs.

The organization may best be known for its “shoebox ministry” that sends Christmastime packages filled with personal care items and small toys to needy children all over the world. But Samaritan’s Purse is equally as active in its disaster relief efforts.

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Source: Religion News Service