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New York mayor Bill de Blasio faces intense scrutiny over anti-gay group running city’s coronavirus hospital

Nick Duffy April 1, 2020
A temporary hospital is built in Central Park on the East Meadow lawn during the Coronavirus pandemic on March 31, 2020 in New York City

A temporary hospital is built in Central Park on the East Meadow lawn during the Coronavirus pandemic on March 31, 2020 in New York City (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has spoken out against “very troubling” anti-LGBT+ discrimination from the evangelical group he has invited to run a makeshift hospital in Central Park.

Anti-LGBT+ evangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for blaming gay people for a “moral 9/11”, gained permission from the mayor’s office for his group Samaritan’s Purse to build a 68-bed field hospital in the city, which will take overflow patients from Mount Sinai hospital.

However, medical personnel who wish to help the project are being forced to sign an anti-gay belief statement that says gay people will face eternal damnation.

Graham’s charity has previously been criticised for exploiting relief efforts in order to convert people, and is also running a “mobile ministry centre” in the city.

Bill de Blasio ‘very concerned’ over anti-LGBT+ involvement in hospital site.

At a press conference on Tuesday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio – a Democrat and supporter of LGBT+ rights – insisted there would be no discrimination at the site, despite Graham’s refusal to drop the belief statement.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to concerns over anti-LGBT evangelist Franklin Graham's involvement in the relief effort
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to concerns over anti-LGBT evangelist Franklin Graham’s involvement in the relief effort (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

He said: “Well, when I heard originally, Andrew, that there was, you know, an organisation that was going to help Mount Sinai address COVID-19, I thought, ‘That’s fantastic.’

“The fact that it was moving so quickly was something that I found positive. Then when I heard more about the organisation, and particularly some of the things I read from Graham… it was very troubling to me.

“And I said immediately to my team that we had to find out exactly what was happening. Was there going to be an approach that was truly consistent with the values and the laws in New York City that everyone would be served and served equally.

“We’ve received those assurances from the organisation. I spoke earlier today with the CEO of the Mount Sinai system, Dr Ken Davis, who was adamant that they will only continue their relationship with the organisation if those rules are followed, that they have a written agreement, that there’s going to be no discrimination whatsoever.

“We’re going to send people over from the mayor’s office to monitor. So, I’m very concerned to make sure this is done right. But if it is done right, of course, we need all the help we can get.”

Franklin Graham insists he will still discriminate against LGBT+ volunteers.

Despite allegedly making “assurances” to the mayor, Samaritan’s Purse continues to require all medical volunteers for the site to sign the anti-gay belief statement – and Graham has already said he is not willing to change the policy.

Appearing on Fox News host Todd Starnes’ radio show, the pro-Trump pastor said: “We are evangelical Christians and we hire Christian men and women to work in our hospitals. We are there in Jesus’ name. That’s just who we are. We don’t compromise on this issue.”

All volunteers are forced to agree: “We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other.

“God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

However, Graham insisted that patients will be treated “regardless of their race, ethnicity or their sexual preference”.

New York City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, who is gay, has gone further than de Blasio in his condemnation of Franklin Graham.

He said: “Franklin Graham has a long history of spewing anti-LGBT+ hate speech and I find it extremely troubling that he and his organisation are involved in our relief efforts in any way.

“New York City is known around the world for our embrace of diversity and Franklin Graham has spent his career standing against these values. I will be monitoring this situation closely and making sure that our city’s values are being represented at all times.”

Another LGBT+ New York lawmaker, state senator Brad Hoylman, said: “It’s a shame that the federal government has left New York with no other choice but to accept charity from bigots.

“You know those medical tents being constructed in Central Park? They’re being set up by notorious anti-gay bigot Franklin Graham. Mr Graham must promise to treat EVERY patient with dignity and respect.”

More: Bill de Blasio, Central Park, Coronavirus, franklin graham, New York City, Samaritan's Purse

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