Is This Central Park Field Hospital Being Run By A Hate Group?

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images.
As coronavirus continues to plague the U.S., New York City hospitals are being overwhelmed with patients needing treatment. According to most recent figures, New York — which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country — has admitted over 10,000 patients before the pandemic's peak. Now, healthcare workers who are already struggling with limited resources are looking for assistance from any possible outside sources.
In order to help with capacity issues, a makeshift tent hospital was constructed in Central Park this week. The hospital is run by Mount Sinai Hospital, in partnership with a group known for assisting in humanitarian crises all over the world — but there’s one catch. These “emergency helpers” are part of the evangelical organization Samaritan’s Purse, which asks all employees to adhere to their anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-abortion statement of faith. As a result, many are worried that people who need care may be turned away because of their identity, or that sick, dying people may be subjected to proselytizing as a requirement for receiving life-saving care.
"We are a Christian organization and we hire Christians who share our statement of faith," Samaritan's Purse said in a statement to Refinery29. "We have a common denominator of our faith in Jesus Christ and sharing that hope." The group, which has also been assisting with the COVID-19 outbreak in other countries, previously opened an identical unit in Cremona, Italy, according to a press release.
In their New York makeshift care facility, the field hospital has 68 beds, as well as ventilators, which are in short supply nationwide. According to the statement of faith that all Samaritan’s Purse workers are asked to agree to, gayness, transness, nonmonogamy, sex outside of marriage, and abortion are all condemned. It says they believe “sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage” and that “God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family.” The statement goes on to explicitly say that “marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female” and that “human life is sacred from conception to its natural end.”
Pastor Franklin Graham, the CEO and President of Samaritan's Purse, is known for two primary things: speaking at President Trump’s inauguration and dictating anti-LGBTQ positions. He’s called support for gay and trans people “depravity,” called Islam “wicked” and “evil,” and given speeches to a group that has accused trans activists of harming children.
Although Samaritan’s Purse is not listed as an SPLC-designated hate group, Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director of the LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Refinery29 that they are still quite dangerous to have on the frontlines of a pandemic like this. "The organization is a vehicle that has been used to support and execute Graham’s agenda," McCoy said. "Its volunteers are required to adhere to the group’s statement of faith, which point to biblical references admonishing marriage equality and has attempted to convert children in majority-Muslim countries to Christianity."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who initially praised Samaritan’s Purse for funding and building the facility, told reporters on Tuesday that he was “concerned,” but he feels confident they will act in ways “consistent with the values and laws of New York City” and that the city needs “all the help we can get.”
According to the New York State Department of Health, Mount Sinai Hospital was approved to run the offsite respiratory care unit with Samaritan's Purse until the governor’s emergency declaration is lifted. Still, the New York State Depart of Health's Communications Director Jonah Bruno tells Refinery29 that they will enforce "all applicable anti-discrimination laws and regulations."
"By participating in the unprecedented public health response to this pandemic, their joint partnership will provide an essential service to people who have tested positive for COVID-19," Bruno said in a statement.
Mount Sinai also denounced any discrimination put forward by Samaritan's Purse, saying that “all workers will adhere to The Mount Sinai Hospital principles and guidelines when it comes to not discriminating against patients or staff based on actual or perceived race, creed, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, age, disability, marital, partnership or parental status, sexual orientation, alien or citizenship status, veteran or military status, or any other characteristic protected by law.”
In a statement to Refinery29, Mount Sinai spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt stated the urgency of the current situation in New York and need for the type of services this respiratory unit can provide right now. “While our organizations may have differences of opinions, when it comes to COVID-19 we are fully united: we will care for everyone and no patients or staff will be discriminated against.”
Despite their history, and studies finding "little clinical benefit" to their interventions due to possible religious motives, both the NYS DOH and Mount Sinai agree that the nature of coronavirus and the speed at which it's spreading in New York means that all (metaphorical) hands are needed on deck.
Samaritan’s Purse assures us that they do not intend to discriminate in regards to who they help. When Refinery29 asked Mount Sinai whether health care workers may be expected — or allowed —to proselytize while providing care to patients sick and dying from COVID-19, and were told they were not. "Their mission is providing health care — not converting," Riegelhaupt told Refinery29. But the group's history of proselytizing while providing relief in places like El Salvador in 2001 says otherwise.
Though it's still unclear how much was known about the organization about Samaritan's Purse before they were approved as an official facility (a spokesperson for the mayor's office clarified that the city only helped with logistics after the facility was approved by the state), all institutions seem to be aligned in shutting down discriminatory messaging while also expanding any possible resources.
“New York has lost over 1,000 people already, and more are dying every day," said Riegelhaupt. "Mount Sinai and Samaritan’s Purse are unified in our mission to provide the same world-class care to anyone and everyone who needs it. No questions asked. We are all focused on one thing — saving lives.” 

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