Evangelical group running Central Park tent hospital rejected workers who wouldn’t sign statement of faith, protesters say

traffic safety
Protestors blasted Mt. Sinai for accepting help from SamaritanÕs Purse who they say force volunteers and employees to sign a Statement of Faith that they say is homophobic.(Photo by Todd Maisel)

LGBTQ advocates blasted Mount Sinai Hospital and New York City Tuesday for partnering with Samaritan’s Purse medical volunteers and for allowing the faith-based group who treating COVID-19 patients in a Central Park tent city, for requiring that volunteers and employees agree to its “transphobic and homophobic Statement of Faith.”

Critics panned Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian charity run by Reverend Franklin Graham, for forcing volunteers to sign the “Statement of Faith,” a passage of which affirms that those who sign it believe marriage as being “exclusively the union of” a man and a woman.

Members of the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) held a socially distanced rally Tuesday outside of the Samaritan Purse’s tent city, set up in Central Park on East 98th Street, across the street from Mt. Sinai Hospital. More than two dozen tents have been erected in the park where medical volunteers have been treating COVID-19 patients in various states of illness.

Critics of Samaritan’s Purse say the group has rejected at least one volunteer for its Central Park field hospital for his refusal to agree to the organization’s anti-same sex marriage, anti-transgender and anti-abortion “Statement of Faith.” Timothy Lunceford-Stevens informed RPC directly that he was rejected as a volunteer by Samaritan’s Purse for not signing the statement.

“On April 5, I attempted to offer myself as a volunteer to Samaritan’s Purse online, at their Central Park tents,” Lunceford-Stevens said.  “When they heard my qualifications and experience, they said they’d love to have me join them. But when I got to the end of the interview process, they told me I’d have to agree to their ‘Statement of Faith.’ I told them that I was eager to do the work, even though I knew we had disagreements, but that I could not sign a ‘Statement of Faith’ that is homophobic [and] transphobic … They then rejected my application, with no further communication.”

Timothy Lunceford-Stevens blasted Mt. Sinai for accepting help from Samaritan’s Purse who they say force volunteers and employees to sign a Statement of Faith that he says is homophobic.(Photo by Todd Maisel)

Lunceford-Stevens said he filed a complaint against Samaritan’s Purse with New York City’s Human Rights Commission. The NYC Human Rights Law and the New York State Human Rights Law prohibit employers from discriminating in the workplace on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. Both laws also bar discrimination in the provision of services to the public.

James Finn of Michigan also described in a first-person said he to had a similar experience of attempting to volunteer to work with Samaritan’s Purse in Central Park, but being rejected when he declined to sign the Statement of Faith.

“New York City and Mt. Sinai Hospital must demand that Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse drop its discriminatory and bigoted ‘Statement of Faith,’” said Natalie James, an organizer with the Reclaim Pride Coalition’s COVID-19 Response Working Group. “We were promised there would be no discrimination by the notoriously anti-Islam, homophobic Samaritan’s Purse in its provision of services to desperately ill New Yorkers. But now we find that Samaritan’s Purse has shown discrimination in who it allows to help. New Yorkers trying to help in this crisis should not be turned away because they refuse to endorse Samaritan’s Purse’s exclusionary agenda. Healthcare should not come at the cost of basic human rights.”

The press conference follows The Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s rejection of Samaritan’s Purse’s 400 beds in their building. The decision to cancel that project was said to be based in part on Cathedral staff members’ discomfort with the beliefs of Samaritan’s Purse and “how important the Cathedral is to many different constituencies, including the LGBTQ community,” according to Lisa Schubert, Vice President for Programming and External Relations.

Samaritan’s Purse came at a time when Covid-19 patient counts were rising beyond city capacity to handle them and rising numbers of patients were dying.

Leaders of the protest said they had obtained an internal memo from Mt. Sinai Hospital, that  declared their disagreements with Samaritan’s Purse but begged their personnel to overlook the bigotry. “We implore you to put aside differences and to join us in this fight against a terrible disease.” 

One protestor said using Samaritan’s Purse was tantamount to “accepting help from the Klu Klux Klan.”Officials for Mt. Sinai were contacted by amNewYork Metro, and we are awaiting a response.

Hours before the rally, Graham issued the following statement: 

“It’s true, for 50 years, we have asked our paid staff to subscribe to a Statement of Faith—but we have never asked any of the millions of people we have served to subscribe to anything. In other words, as a religious charity, while we lawfully hire staff who share our Christian beliefs, we do not discriminate in who we serve. We have provided billions of dollars of medical care and supplies, food and water, and emergency shelter without any conditions whatsoever. Our Christian faith compels us — like the biblical Good Samaritan — to love and serve everyone in need, regardless of their faith or background.”

Jason Kaplan, spokesperson for Mt. Sinai issued a statement in reaction to the protest.

“The Central Park field hospital is operated by Samaritan’s Purse with their own doctors and staff under the oversight of the Mount Sinai Health System. All workers in the field hospital are subject to Mount Sinai policies and procedures. Today, Samaritan’s Purse again reaffirmed that consistent with all New York State anti-discrimination laws and Mount Sinai policy their employees will provide all needed healthcare to New Yorkers regardless of any individual’s religion, creed, race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender expression.”

Reclaim Pride Coalition’s COVID-19 Response Working Group demands: Samaritan’s Purse drop its requirement for employees and volunteers to sign their “Statement of Faith;” The New York City Human Rights Commission conduct an investigation of whether Samaritan’s Purse’s hiring policies are in violation of City and/or State Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio and Mt. Sinai publish their plans to monitor Samaritan Purse’s work for non-discrimination and medical competence; The New York State Governor’s Office and the New York City Mayor’s Office publicize whether Samaritan’s Purse is receiving public money and make clear who approved their Central Park facility.

Protestors blasted Mt. Sinai for accepting help from Samaritan’s Purse who they say force volunteers and employees to sign a Statement of Faith that they say is homophobic.(Photo by Todd Maisel)
Protestors blasted Mt. Sinai for accepting help from Samaritan’s Purse who they say force volunteers and employees to sign a Statement of Faith that they say is homophobic.(Photo by Todd Maisel)