May 2020 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Evangelist Franklin Graham has come under fire for requiring volunteers at a New York City field hospital in Central Park to sign a statement indicating that they hold anti-LGBTQ views.

The Graham group Samaritan’s Purse erected the temporary hospital to house victims of coronavirus. New York City was hit hard by the virus and expected its hospital to be overrun with patients. To deal with the overflow, a number of field hospitals were established.

Anyone who wanted to volunteer at the field hospital was first required to sign a statement of faith reflecting fundamentalist Christian tenets. Among them was an agreement that marriage is defined as “exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.” The statement also said that “unrighteous” people would be sentenced to “everlasting punishment in hell.”

The news site Gothamist reported that city officials said they were willing to work with Samaritan’s Purse given the shortage of hospital beds. And the Graham group insisted it would offer medical services to anyone in need. The temporary hospital is operating in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital, a teaching hospital in Manhattan. City officials said they would ensure that the Graham hospital did not discriminate against anyone.

But critics pointed out that Sam­aritan’s Purse has a track record of proselytizing to people in the wake of natural disasters and pandemics. Some New Yorkers also said they’d be unwilling to accept help from the group.

“I don’t want to demonize people who are volunteering their time, but it is a concerning thing,” Amy Martin, a former nursing assistant, told Gothamist. “On the one hand, this is absolutely an all hands on deck situation. On the other hand, as an LGBT New Yorker, I would be hesitant to make that my first choice of care. I’d much rather be seen anywhere else.”

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-New York City) issued a press release calling Graham “a bigot who has spent decades demonizing the LGBTQ community.” Hoylman said Graham should be required to sign a statement agreeing to abide by non-discrimination policies.