Franklin Graham accuses New York officials of opposing coronavirus hospital over religious beliefs

The Rev. Franklin Graham on Tuesday accused New York officials of harassment for criticizing his medical organization, which has required workers at its Central Park field hospital to sign a pledge saying they are Christians who oppose gay marriage.

Graham made the accusation in a Facebook post shortly before Mount Sinai Health Systems, which is working with the evangelical leader's group Samaritan's Purse, informed state officials that it would require medical workers to sign a second pledge vowing to not discriminate against patients, according to The New York Times.

Samaritan's Purse is considered a nondenominational evangelical organization that regularly provides aid and relief to developing countries.

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Graham said in Tuesday's Facebook post that the organization has never discriminated against patients but added that it had a right to "lawfully hire staff who share our Christian beliefs" because it is considered a religious charity.

"It seems tone-deaf to be attacking our religious conviction about marriage at the very moment thousands of New Yorkers are fighting for their lives and dozens of Samaritan's Purse workers are placing their lives at risk to provide critical medical care," Graham wrote.

The group has faced past criticism for its positions on LGBTQ issues and for Graham's public support of President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE.

Graham added that the criticism comes amid his organization's attempts to save lives. He said his critics include the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Reclaim Pride Coalition, a progressive LGBTQ group.

"If any of these groups had funded and erected their own emergency field hospitals to serve COVID-19 patients in Central Park, we would join ... in applauding and praying for them, not harassing them," he wrote on Tuesday.

Since the opening of the field hospital in Central Park on April 1, Samaritan's Purse has reportedly treated 130 patients for COVID-19.

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Reclaim Pride Coalition responded to The Hill, adding that the Samaritan's required pledge signing was needed not only for medical staff but for any volunteers who wanted to help with the group's COVID-19 relief.

"All the statements that we've read from Mount Sinai have very clearly stated that Samaritan's Purse is in charge of staffing and all volunteer participation," said Jay W. Walker, an organizer for the LGBTQ+ group.

"For anyone wanting to help with medical or organizational work in the field hospital, they would have to sign the statement of faith," he added.

Any volunteer project related to the organization requests users to review the statement of faith and acknowledge they have read the guidelines. Users then "agree to abide by the ministry guidelines of Samaritan's Purse" to proceed with their application, according to the group's website. 

The other groups mentioned by Graham did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.

A handful of congressional Democrats representing districts in New York sent a letter last week to state officials requesting information on how Samaritan's Purse became involved in the virus response.

"Now more than ever, New York City must uphold its values and ensure that every New Yorker feels safe in seeking medical attention," the lawmakers wrote.

Mount Sinai also faced heavy criticism for its decision to work with Samaritan's Purse. 

Jason Kaplan, a spokesman for Mount Sinai, told the Times that the decision was made because "this virus kills people of every religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation."

"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," Kaplan said in an email to the newspaper. "No questions asked."

Updated at 2:09 p.m.