Samaritan’s Purse, the charitable organization run by homophobic Christian right leader Franklin Graham, is ending its partnership with Mount Sinai Health System to provide care for COVID-19 patients in New York City.
Many LGBTQ activists have objected to the presence of Graham’s organization, which requires employees and volunteers to sign a “statement of faith” that includes opposition to same-sex marriage. Mount Sinai officials asserted that there would be no discrimination in care and that no one would have to sign the statement in order to volunteer at the field hospital Samaritan’s Purse was running in Central Park in partnership with Mount Sinai. But two potential volunteers have said they were blocked from continuing the application process on the Samaritan’s Purse website when they would not endorse the statement, New York’s Gay City News reports.
Now the field hospital is being dismantled, as demand for beds for COVID-19 patients in New York City is finally declining. Originally, Mount Sinai announced that Samaritan’s Purse would continue to provide supplemental services at its Beth Israel division. But the hospital and Samaritan’s Purse issued a joint statement Saturday saying the relationship would end within two weeks.
The announcement came the day before a protest by the Reclaim Pride Coalition over the continued involvement of Graham’s organization. The protest went on Sunday as scheduled, but the Mount Sinai-Samaritan’s Purse announcement did not say if the planned demonstration or any previous protests had influenced the decision.
The statement, first reported by Gay City News and shared by Mount Sinai Monday with The Advocate, notes that admissions to the field hospital will cease as of today. “Mount Sinai Health System and Samaritan’s Purse continue to closely monitor the outbreak, and we anticipate that it will take approximately two weeks to treat these last patients and subsequently decontaminate and remove the tents,” the statement reads in part. “The Samaritan’s Purse staff will also wind down their support of Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital over the next two weeks.” More than 300 patients have been treated at the field hospital, where operations have followed Mount Sinai’s nondiscrimination policy, according to the document.
LGBTQ activists expressed satisfaction that Samaritan’s Purse was leaving New York but reiterated their concern that it had ever been allowed to provide care. “Samaritan’s Purse will be gone from New York within two weeks,” Natalie James, cofounder of Reclaim Pride, told the Spectrum News cable channel. “We are very relieved and consider this to be a victory of the LGBT community and other oppressed groups.”
Another Reclaim Pride activist, Ann Northrop, said in a Twitter video that the group remains angry about Samaritan’s Purse’s involvement and will investigate how it came about. She also noted that Reclaim Pride members were forced to disperse by police Sunday and that several were issued citations.
The arrangement with Samaritan’s Purse has drawn criticism from a variety of elected officials, including New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, both of whom are gay. In addition to his anti-LGBTQ statements, Graham has made numerous Islamophobic comments and generally condemned all religions except his brand of evangelical Christianity. Besides running Samaritan’s Purse, he heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, founded by his late father.
Graham is a major supporter of Donald Trump, and in a Saturday Facebook post, he attributed anti-Trump motives to “left-leaning media” that “want to project the worse-case scenarios relating to COVID-19.” He asserted that shutting down the economy “is doing more damage to people’s lives than COVID-19” and noted that more deaths are caused by heart disease and cancer (neither of which is contagious, as the coronavirus is). “No matter how negative the reports are from the media and liberal politicians who want to use the coronavirus to destroy President Donald J. Trump, if we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to be afraid,” he concluded. “God made us. He has a plan and a purpose for our lives, and He knows the number of our days.”