New York state has said that Christian humanitarian relief organisation Samaritan's Purse will be subject to a tax bill after the group discharged the final coronavirus patient from their field hospital in Central Park.
Despite the fact that Samaritan's Purse is manned by volunteers, has treated sick people free of charge and is funded by private donations, governor Andrew Cuomo insisted that now is not the time to grant charitable tax breaks.
"We’re not in a position to provide any subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit,” Cuomo said at a press conference earlier this week. “There’s a lot of good things I’d like to do, and if we get federal funding, we can do, but it would be irresponsible for me to sit here looking at a $13 billion deficit and say I’m gonna spend more money, when I can’t even pay the essential services."
Ever since they erected a series of large hospital tents in the picturesque NYC location last month, the group has come under fire from some city officials for its Christian ethos and assocation with conserverative preacher and the group's CEO, Rev Franklin Graham. The lawmakers complained that Samaritan Purse's requirement that volunteers sign a Statement of Faith, which details the group's belief in Biblical marriage between one man and one woman, meant that staff were at risk of being non-inclusive when treating patients.
Franklin Graham immediately rebuffed the claim as absurd, noting that it was "tone-deaf to be attacking our religious conviction about marriage at the very moment thousands of New Yorkers are fighting for their lives and dozens of Samaritan’s Purse workers are placing their lives at risk to provide critical medical care."
That didn't stop New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson from demanding that the group leave on account of their beliefs.
“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” Johnson tweeted last week. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”
Though Graham has yet to respond to Cuomo's comments on income tax, he did confirm to US outlet Faithwire.com that his aid group was invited to serve in New York by Mount Sinai Hospital in Central Park’s East Meadow as medical facilities began to become overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. "We agreed to go and we have not charged them one penny," he said. "All of our services have been paid by God’s people.”
Following the final patient discharge, Graham wrote on Facebook: "We gave them world-class medical care and showed them God’s love and compassion. We want each one to know the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
"We will be taking the hospital tents down in the coming days, but we are leaving some staff behind to help at another location within the Mount Sinai Health System. The people at Mount Sinai have been absolutely great to work with, and we appreciate their support and partnership in this effort to save lives.”