An anti-Christianity and pro-LGTBQ rights activist was arrested on Sunday after contesting an evangelical group’s involvement in coronavirus treatment and response.
According to NBC News, Reverend Billy Talen, donned in a pink suit and bandana mask, was arrested outside a COVID-19 field hospital in New York City’s Central Park. As Metro Weekly reports, the gay rights activist entered the makeshift hospital’s grounds and attempted to plant a flag pole with a rainbow flag attached.
Specifically, Talen “jumped over the outer perimeter barrier of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital, a prohibited area,” according to a police statement. Then after ignoring demands to leave, Talen “proceeded to plant a flag on a pole into the ground.”
While being carried away by New York police, Talen was overheard saying, “They have no business being in New York City. They are the virus.”
Today I tried to deliver a rainbow flag to the Samaritans Purse field hospital in Central Park. Franklin Graham and his Lords Army are here with their homophobic racist hustle. Help not hate. pic.twitter.com/zTK8mLmmbe
— Reverend Billy Talen (@revbillytalen) April 6, 2020
The subject of Talen’s protest was Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization run by Franklin Graham. The organization has a history of anti-LGBTQ actions and the organization mandates that all volunteers uphold the belief that marriage is “exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”
In a previous statement, however, Graham assured reporters that Samaritan’s Purse would “treat everyone we help the same.”
“We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status,” he stated. “We certainly do not discriminate, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that.”
Despite that. openly gay State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), said he would be monitoring the organization closely.
“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should Franklin Graham,” Hoylman stated. “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.”
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio also expressed caution over Samaritan’s Purse’s “troubling” views. As he shared in a press conference, “I’m very concerned to make sure this is done right, but if this is done right, we need all the help we can get.”
As for Billy Talen, this isn’t the first time that the activist has gotten into trouble with the law and fought against religious groups. The actor and playwright has mocked and antagonized Christian groups for over 20 years and has used the character “Reverent Billy” to do it.