Reverend Billy Talen, a longtime activist, was arrested on Sunday after attempting to plant a rainbow flag amid a tent hospital in NYC’s Central Park following reports that volunteers at the hospital are asked to “read and adhere” to a statement of faith that says gay people will burn in Hell. The tent hospital is run by evangelist Franklin Graham’s anti-LGBTQ group Samaritan’s Purse.
“They take advantage of our sorrow,” yelled Talen as he was escorted from the park in a clip posted to social media. “They take advantage of our troubles now, with the coronavirus. They are predators. They’re right-wing apocalyptic Christians. We’ve got to get them out of New York City. I know that our mayor is upset about it. Do what you can to get those white tents out of our town.”
NBC News reports: “Talen, an actor and playwright, has satirized consumerism and right-wing religious beliefs in the character of Reverend Billy for more than 20 years. Talen was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, according to a police spokesperson, who said he is so far the only person to have been arrested at the field hospital. In an email sent to NBC News, the spokesperson said Talen ‘jumped over the outer perimeter barrier of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital, a prohibited area,’ and was then ‘instructed to leave.’ He refused and ‘proceeded to plant a flag on a pole into the ground.'”
Gothamist reported: “Graham, the son of prominent minister Billy Graham, has specifically sought to recruit Christian medical staff to the Central Park facility. According to the group’s website, all volunteers, including health care workers, should read and adhere to a statement of faith, in which marriage is defined as ‘exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female’ and the unrighteous are sentenced to ‘everlasting punishment in hell.’”