Bias Watch

Franklin Graham says his COVID-19 tent hospital won’t discriminate. A gay man says they refused him.

Franklin Graham
Photo: Shutterstock

Pastor Franklin Graham’s anti-LGBTQ nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse is operating a tent hospital in New York City’s Central Park to help with the coronavirus pandemic, but Graham claims that the tent hospital won’t discriminate against anyone who needs treatment. A gay man who tried to volunteer, however, says the group turned him away.

“We don’t discriminate against anybody we help,” he told the Religious News Service. “We provide our services to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. We don’t discriminate. Period.”

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Graham has a long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including accusing former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of “flaunting” his homosexuality and saying that STIs are a result of people who don’t “follow God’s guidelines” for sexuality.

While he regularly posts anti-LGBTQ messages to Facebook, Graham isn’t a dime store bigot spewing hatred to get attention. He is the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, an organization with operations in over 100 countries and $700 million in revenue in 2018.

Graham himself drew a salary of $636,451 in 2018, according to the organization’s IRS filing, and that’s on top of the full-time salary he gets as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which doesn’t have to publicly state his salary but is also estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Samaritan’s Purse won’t let LGBTQ people even work for free at its tent hospital in Central Park. Gay activist James Finn writes on Medium that he tried to sign up as a volunteer – first to do manual labor and then by pretending to be a retired doctor – and he couldn’t even finish the online application without agreeing to the organization’s anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

The organization requires volunteers to agree to its statement of faith, and one of the points in that statement says that “God created man and woman” who were “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,” the statement says. “For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

When Finn called Samaritan’s Purse, he talked to someone who seemed excited that he was going to volunteer, until she found out he’s gay.

“Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization,” she told him over the phone, implying that Christianity is inherently homophobic. “Didn’t you know that?”

Graham, though, insists that LGBTQ people will be treated fairly by the confirmed anti-LGBTQ workers at his tent hospital.

“We hire men and women who believe in Jesus Christ,” Graham said. “But we don’t force our beliefs on anyone. We don’t use our faith to try to force someone to believe the way we believe. Jesus never did that. He healed people willingly and freely.”

He said that this is just the normal “second-guessing” people do “every time we do anything.”

“It’s disappointing but it’s not going to stop us,” he said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement on the tent hospital that said that her office “will remain vigilant to ensure discrimination does not occur at this — or any other — facility.”

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