By Charlotte Baron
With the overwhelming number of people affected by COVID-19, a field hospital set up and run by Samaritan’s Purse opened in Central Park on April 1st. Samaritan’s Purse is an Evangelical Christian fundamentalist group. They require all persons working in the facility to swear allegiance to their doctrine.
This organization’s leader, Franklin Graham, is openly anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion and Islamophobic. Graham has specifically sought out “Christian” medical staff, and he makes everyone follow a statement of faith; one of the statements expresses that the volunteers must commit to is that marriage is between a man and women: “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.” Another one expresses the opposition to abortion, “We believe that human life is sacred from conception to its natural end; and that we must have concern for the physical and spiritual needs of our fellowmen.” Graham has previously stated that “Satan is behind same-sex marriage”. He has also described Islam as “wicked and evil.” Many New York City citizens are concerned that their medical care will be compromised because of the organization’s views.
When the Mayor’s office was asked about the impact this organization’s ideology would have on incoming patients that might not fit this extremist Evangelical criteria, a spokesperson said that “the field hospital will operate as a Mount Sinai facility, and must adhere to the hospital’s policy against discrimination.” DeBlasio also stated that the City would be keeping a close eye on Samaritan’s Purse. He assured everyone that the group would be acting in a way “truly consistent with the values and the laws of New York City.”
Despite DeBlasio’s initial claims that the field hospital would be operated jointly with Mount Sinai Hospital, that is not the case. The medical center will be providing patients but no oversight, and will rely on a pledge to treat patients equally.
It seems clear from medical professionals rejected by the organization because of their refusal to sign why Samaritan’s Purse would not comment on whether they would accept help from non-Christians or those who do not commit to follow their statements of faith. Samaritan’s Purse’s actions are extremely alarming. They appear to be politicizing healthcare, which according to a Mount Sinai emergency room doctor is “exactly what this organization is about.” Jacklyn Grace Lacey who is a medical anthropologist who has closely followed how the organization has “helped” in other crises has said, “This is a dangerous religious propaganda machine that uses international medical aid to further their agenda.” If the city does not closely monitor this organization, the results could be detrimental for hundreds of New Yorkers.