Evangelist Behind NYC Tent Hospital Says He’s Not Homophobic

Rev. Franklin Graham is being "harassed" for his charity's anti-LGBTQ practices.

Volunteers needed, but LGBTQ people and allies still need not apply.

Evangelical Christian preacher Franklin Graham, son of late televangelist and homophobe Billy Graham, is standing firmly behind the anti-LGBTQ practices of the New York City field hospital run by his humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.

The small makeshift tent facility in Central Park is currently treating overflow COVID-19 patients from Mount Sinai Hospital, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to overwhelm local health centers.

It was reported last month that, according to the relief group’s website, all Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, including health care workers, must read and adhere to a statement of faith defining “monogamous marriage” as “exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.” The ministry statement also declares that God “will banish the unrighteous to everlasting punishment in hell.”

Graham, the notoriously anti-LGBTQ and Islamophobic leader of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is now insisting that he is not homophobic.

“We are a religious organization, so we want to hire people of like mind, and we have a statement of faith that we require our employees to sign. And in that is ’a marriage is between a man and a woman,’ and this is very offensive to some people and the gay community,” Graham explained this week to Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

“And listen, I’m not homophobic, and I’m certainly not going around bashing people because they may be homosexual,” he continued. “I believe in that God loves all of us. He created us all, but we also are sinners, and our sins separate us from God. And I want people to know how they can have a relationship with God, and that’s through faith in his son Jesus Christ. So, I don’t bash homosexuals. I want homosexuals to know the truth: that God does love them.”

Graham, who broadcast an Easter Sunday service from Central Park, also released a statement this week to address objections to Samaritan’s Purse, arguing that the organization is “being harassed into diverting precious resources of time and energy and personnel away from serving COVID-19 patients.”

Last week Graham doubled down on his facility’s exclusionary stipulation, further comparing LGBTQ people to drunks, drug users, and potty mouths.

“All of our doctors and nurses and staff, [they’re] Christians,” Graham told The Charlotte Observer. “We believe it’s very important that—as we serve people and help people—we do it in Jesus’ name.”

“Of course, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Graham added. “That’s part of who we are. So we have a long list of things we want people to understand and agree with before we take them to work with us. I don’t want a person who is going to be on the job and drinks; that’s not a good witness. I don’t want a person who’s going to be using drugs to be part of our team. I don’t want someone who’s going to be swearing to be part of our team. I don’t want someone who is trying to pick up girls, and using this as an opportunity to do those kinds of things.”

Graham also reiterated his recent claim on Fox News that the pandemic is God’s punishment for our sins. “When God made man, he never intended for man to have disease,” he told the Observer. “I see the coronavirus, I see the wars of this world, I see the economic problems—I see all these other things—as just a result of the fallen world in which we live. And that’s as a result of sin that came into the world and has infected the entire human race.”

Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who initially praised but later expressed concern about Samaritan’s Purse, said the field hospital must adhere to Mount Sinai policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which is in compliance with city and state nondiscrimination laws. According to Mayor de Blasio, Mount Sinai CEO Dr. Ken Davis has confirmed that Samaritan’s Purse signed a written pledge to treat all patients equally.

New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who is gay, is among local politicians closely monitoring the Central Park facility to ensure patients are not turned away based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or lifestyle choices. He and civil rights attorney Roberta Kaplan are working to require that every volunteer at the field hospital sign a statement affirming their commitment to the New York City Human Rights Law.

“We’re going to give the best health care we can to all New Yorkers, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they are,” Graham assured Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re going to give them the best medical care that we possibly can in Jesus’ name.”

Activist Billy Talen, a.k.a. Reverend Billy, was arrested earlier this month after planting a rainbow flag at the Samaritan’s Purse tent hospital site to protest the group’s anti-LGBTQ mission statement.

This week the activist group Rise and Resist held a socially distanced protest near the Central Park site. “Bigotry is always harm, not help,” said Kellen Gold, a Rise and Resist member, in a statement. “I would never seek medical care from this organization. I have absolutely no confidence that as a queer and trans person, I would receive competent healthcare.”

Plans for Samaritan’s Purse to convert New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine into another field hospital for COVID-19 patients have been stalled, reportedly due in part to Episcopal church leaders’ concerns about the evangelical nonprofit’s involvement.

Franklin, a vocal Trump supporter, made headlines last year when he said presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg should “repent” for being gay.

With rising cases of COVID-19 in New York City accounting for a third of all cases in the U.S., Mayor de Blasio has called the city “the epicenter of this crisis.”

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