Fact check: Does Christian aid group require COVID-19 responders to sign anti-LGBTQ statement?

The claim: Christian humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse requires that workers in its NYC COVID-19 operation sign an anti-LGBTQ 'Statement of Faith'

Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid group that has conducted relief efforts around the world, set up a 68-bed field hospital staffed by several dozen personnel in New York’s Central Park to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

The organization’s president and CEO, Franklin Graham, is a prominent evangelical Christian with a history of anti-LGBTQ statements. The organization has received praise for its efforts, which have relieved pressure on the city’s overburdened health care system, while drawing criticism for its stance on LGBTQ issues.

“If you are a Christian doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other medical professional interested in serving COVID-19 patients in our @SamaritansPurse Emergency Field Hospital in NYC, please visit http://samaritanspurse.org,” Graham tweeted March 29.

Reports have circulated online claiming that the organization requires volunteers to sign a “Statement of Faith” that contains anti-LGBTQ language. The organization’s Statement of Faith includes an article stating that “God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

Politicians expressed concern about the organization’s provision of care to LGBTQ individuals, while others condemned the organization’s involvement in the pandemic response.

“Franklin Graham has a long history of spewing anti-LGBTQ hate speech, and I find it extremely troubling that he and his organization are involved in our relief efforts in any way,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay. “New York City is known around the world for our embrace of diversity, and Franklin Graham has spent his career standing against these values. I will be monitoring this situation closely and making sure that our city’s values are being represented at all times.”

“Today I’m calling on Franklin Graham to publicly assure LGBTQ New Yorkers that they will receive the same treatment as anyone else at the Central Park field hospital,” New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman said in a statement. “The City of New York and the Mount Sinai hospital network must monitor conditions closely at Graham’s facility and ensure every single LGBTQ patient is treated fairly. We cannot abandon our moral compass in the middle of a pandemic.”

Samaritan’s Purse and New York anti-discrimination laws

Officials from Samaritan’s Purse have been clear in their solicitations for medical volunteers that applicants must agree with the organization’s Statement of Faith.

“The primary mission of Samaritan's Purse is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we seek volunteers who have the same mindset. We ask that volunteers review our Statement of Faith and agree to support the ministry guidelines of Samaritan's Purse,” the group says on its website.

A representative from Samaritan’s Purse told USA TODAY that all medical personnel at the aid group’s Central Park operation are staff employed by Samaritan’s Purse, not volunteers. The group said it does not discriminate on whom it offers treatment based on religion, race, sexual orientation or economic status.

“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,” the group said in a statement provided to USA TODAY.

Under New York law, religious organizations can give preference in hiring to those who adhere to their faith. "Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to bar any religious or denominational institution or organization ... from giving preference to persons of the same religion or denomination or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained," the New York State Human Rights Law reads.

This is echoed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which exempts organizations whose “purpose and character are primarily religious” from the clause prohibiting discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

The Mount Sinai Health System released a statement on the partnership, affirming that the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital would operate as part of the Mount Sinai system and “will adhere to The Mount Sinai Hospital principles and guidelines when it comes to not discriminating against patients or staff.”

“In short, while our organizations may have differences of opinions, when it comes to COVID-19 we are fully united: we will care for everyone and no patients or staff will be discriminated against. … Mount Sinai and Samaritan’s Purse are unified in our mission to provide the same world-class care to anyone and everyone who needs it. No questions asked. We are all focused on one thing – saving lives,” the statement said.

During a news conference March 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city received assurances from Samaritan’s Purse that there would be no discrimination in care at the field hospital operation.

“I spoke earlier today with the CEO of the Mount Sinai system, Dr. Ken Davis, who was adamant that they will only continue their relationship with the organization if those rules are followed, that they have a written agreement, that there’s going to be no discrimination whatsoever. We're going to send people over from the Mayor's Office to monitor. So I'm very concerned to make sure this is done right. But if it is done right, of course, we need all the help we can get,” the mayor said.

Our ruling: True

We rate this claim TRUE because it is supported by our research. Samaritan’s Purse requires that those who work in its facilities adhere to its Statement of Faith, which contains anti-LGBTQ language. The statement does not bar treatment of LGBTQ people or those of other faiths. Local government officials and the Mount Sinai Health System said that not discriminating in the provision of care is a top priority.

Our fact-check sources:

Medical personnel work at the Samaritan's Purse field hospital in New York's Central Park, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
Medical personnel work at the Samaritan's Purse field hospital in New York's Central Park, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: COVID-19 responders required to sign anti-LGBTQ statement?