Metro Weekly

Man arrested for planting Pride flag in tent hospital run by anti-LGBTQ preacher

William Talen was charged with criminal trespass for planting a Pride flag in Franklin Graham's COVID-19 tent hospital

Billy Talen, william talen, franklin graham, new york

(L) William Talen in character as Reverend Billy — Photo: Jonathan McIntosh; (R) Talen being arrested — Photo: Twitter

A man has been arrested after trying to plant an LGBTQ Pride flag at a COVID-19 tent hospital in New York City that was operated by an anti-LGBTQ preacher.

The 68-bed tent hospital in Central Park was established last week by evangelical Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse and is intended to help treat overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital experiencing COVID-19-related respiratory distress.

Samaritan’s Purse is led by anti-LGBTQ preacher Franklin Graham, who has a history of opposing LGBTQ people and equality, and the tent hospital reportedly requires all volunteers to agree to a “Statement of Faith” which includes expressing vehement opposition to homosexuality and transgender people.

Read moreGroup behind NYC COVID-19 tent hospital is forcing medical workers to abide by anti-gay “statement of faith”

William Talen, 69, was arrested on Sunday by police after entering the grounds of the tent hospital and trying to plant a flag pole with a rainbow flag attached, NBC News reports.

Talen was dressed as his Reverend Billy persona, which the actor and playwright uses to satirize conservative religious figures and consumerism.

He has been charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest, according to police.

Talen “jumped over the outer perimeter barrier of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital, a prohibited area,” according to a police statement, and after ignoring demands to leave, “proceeded to plant a flag on a pole into the ground.”

As he was led away from the tent hospital by police officers, one of whom was carrying his flag, Talen said, “They [Samaritan’s Purse] have no business being in New York City. They are the virus,” according to NBC News.

In a video of his arrest posted to Twitter, he said Samaritan’s Purse was “taking advantage of our sorrow,” calling them “predators” and “right-wing apocalyptic Christians.”

“Today I tried to deliver a rainbow flag to the Samaritans Purse field hospital in Central Park,” Talen wrote in the tweet. “Franklin Graham and his Lords Army are here with their homophobic racist hustle. Help not hate.”

After the tent hospital was erected, LGBTQ activists and politicians expressed concern that Samaritan’s Purse may refuse care to LGBTQ people.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who is gay, said he would be monitoring the organization closely, saying, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should Franklin Graham. It’s unacceptable that a New Yorker infected with COVID-19 could be subjected to discriminatory treatment from an organization whose leader calls us ‘immoral’ and ‘detestable.’

“Sadly, beggars can’t be choosers: New York needs every ventilator we can get,” Hoylman added. “But homophobic pastor Franklin Graham and his field hospital operation in Central Park must guarantee all LGBTQ patients with COVID-19 are treated with dignity and respect. We’ll be watching.”

In a statement to Metro Weekly, Samaritan’s Purse rejected claims that it may turn away LGBTQ people seeking care for COVID-19.

“Samaritan’s Purse does not discriminate in who we help, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that. We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status,” said Kaitlyn Lahm, the assistant director of marketing and media relations at Samaritan’s Purse.

“Our doors at the Emergency Field Hospital in the East Meadow are going to be open to all New Yorkers who need our help. We are here to save life, which is precious in God’s sight — and we do it all in Jesus’ Name. We are a Christian organization and we hire Christians who share our statement of faith. We have a common denominator of our faith in Jesus Christ and sharing that hope.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Talen’s sexuality.

Read more:

‘Harley Quinn’ season 2 will explore romance with Poison Ivy

LGBTQ youth should “press pause” on coming out during coronavirus, charity warns

Justice Department says Title IX should exclude transgender female athletes

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly's

LGBTQ Journalism

For as Little as $1.15 a Week

Like What You're Reading?

Get Metro Weekly's Daily Email