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An LGBTQ activist posing as a doctor claims he was turned away by the Christian organization running a New York field hospital for COVID-19 patients after revealing he was gay and declining to sign the organization’s “statement of faith” condemning homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism.
Writing on Medium, James Finn says he initially read a story on Gothamist about the Central Park field hospital, which is designated as an overflow hospital for Mount Sinai Hospital patients suffering from COVID-19-related respiratory illnesses, but didn’t believe its claims.
In that article, Gothamist reported that medical workers lending their services to the field hospital, run by the North Carolina-based charity Samaritan’s Purse, were being forced to sign onto a statement of faith that states, in part, that God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage between a “genetic man” and a “genetic woman.”
Other portions of the statement say that those who are not “saved” — by accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior — will be banished to “everlasting punishment in hell.”
Despite the fact that Samaritan’s Purse is headed by evangelist Franklin Graham — known for his past controversial statements attacking LGBTQ people — Finn claims he was skeptical of the claims put forth about the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital.
“I couldn’t believe any major charity in the face of a global crisis would reject qualified volunteers who are LGBTQ or who support LGBTQ people,” he writes. “I figured Samaritan’s Purse had a problem with old or inaccurate information on their website.”
So Finn, a writer and self-described “retired entrepreneur and business manager pushing 60,” attempted to volunteer his services — specifically his past experience as a business manager — to assist Samaritan’s Purse, and by extension, Mount Sinai Hospital, with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as he attempted to fill out the application, he found he could not submit one without affirming the organization’s statement of faith.
Finn then enlisted a friend who is a practicing physician in Philadelphia, and, with his friend’s help, posed as a retired physician willing to lend his services.
“I figured that level of training might whisk me past the Statement of Faith and at least get me an interview with a live human,” Finn writes. “After all, hospitals in New York are pleading for help, saying doctors are in critically short supply.”
But he was unable to submit an application without agreeing to abide by the statement of faith listed on the Samaritan’s Purse website. So he called a phone number listed on the volunteer page, eventually speaking to a woman who identified herself as “Suzanne.”
With Suzanne’s help — and his physician friend in a WhatsApp window providing guidance — he quickly filled out the application, with Suzanne asking him if he could be ready within days to travel to New York City.
But then, Suzanne asked Finn to affirm the organization’s statement of faith before his application could be processed. He revealed that he was gay, saying: “I don’t have a problem working with you if you believe those things, but I don’t and I can’t affirm them. I just want to help people.”
Within seconds, he said, Suzanne terminated their conversation. When she said Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization, Finn continued the ruse, saying he attends an Episcopalian church regularly and was married to his husband in their church.
When she pushed him again to affirm the statement of faith, he said he couldn’t agree with it. Suzanne then wished him luck volunteering “elsewhere” and hung up the phone.
Reflecting on his experience attempting to volunteer, Finn writes: “A major American charity really is rejecting volunteers who are gay. They’re rejecting business managers and trained medical professionals. Even in this moment of global and national crisis, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse would rather stigmatize and reject LGBTQ folks than help suffering people.”
While much of the controversy around the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital centered around concerns that it might turn away LGBTQ patients suffering from COVID-19 by citing its religious beliefs, fewer outlets have focused on the rejection of LGBTQ health care workers who wish to lend a hand during the pandemic.
While the story gained traction within LGBTQ media, it also sparked backlash from conservative figures or media outlets — from the conservative BizPac Review to Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney — criticizing that same coverage as not being “grounded in reality” or casting concerns about Samaritan’s Purse turning away LGBTQ people as not “credible,” with some pundits even holding up the news coverage as an example of anti-Christian animus in the press.
William Donohue, the president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, went further, slamming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for expressing concern about whether Samaritan’s Purse would treat all patients equally, questioning whether the mayor was a “bigot” when it came to accepting help from a Christian organization.
Yet, despite conservative laments about allegedly biased media coverage concerning Samaritan’s Purse and the statement of faith, Finn, when he posing as the gay doctor, seemingly went out of his way not to be hostile to this “Christian” organization — claiming that he was also a Christian, stating that he bore no animus to the beliefs espoused by Samaritan’s Purse, and expressing a desire to assist the organization during a dire health emergency regardless of his personal beliefs. Despite this, he was still rejected, without a background check, because he refused to affirm the charity’s statement of faith.
For its part, Samaritan’s Purse has previously issued a statement to Metro Weekly insisting that it does not discriminate in who it helps, regardless of an individual’s “religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status.” That statement also notes that the charity’s Christian identity is an essential part of its work.
“We are a Christian organization and we hire Christians who share our statement of faith,” Kaitlyn Lahm, the assistant director of marketing and media relations at Samaritan’s Purse, said in the statement. “We have a common denominator of our faith in Jesus Christ and sharing that hope.”
Even though Finn’s doctor persona was not real, he still finds it “a little stunning” that his medical services would be rejected, particularly during a serious pandemic, because of his sexual orientation.
“Until about three years ago, I didn’t think I lived in a nation where such a thing was possible,” he concludes. “It turns out I was wrong.”
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