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Tensions halt temporary hospital plans at New York cathedral

The cathedral said the group it was partnering with had anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

April 9, 2020, 10:46 AM

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the country's largest gothic cathedral, will not be turned into a temporary field hospital amid the novel coronavirus crisis after an "impasse" developed between the progressive church and a controversial organization that was offering to help with the construction.

A cathedral spokeswoman told ABC News the staff had "a really hard time" dealing with past comments from the organization about LGBTQ people and decided not to move forward.

Samaritan's Purse, the organization run by Rev. Franklin Graham, who has been accused of spreading anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, also confirmed the news in a statement.

"After further discussions and assessment, we will not be moving forward with an expansion at this location," according to the statement, which did not mention any tension. However, a spokeswoman later told ABC News, "from our perspective, there are no tensions with the cathedral."

PHOTO: Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The original plan as of Wednesday was to bring in tents and 50 hospital beds in the 600-foot-long nave and in the crypt. The site would have been staffed by doctors and medical personnel from nearby Mount Sinai Morningside.

Right Rev. Clifton Daniel III, dean of the cathedral, had previously addressed his concern with Samaritan's Purse positions, but said the collaboration would continue.

“I don’t agree with their position on Muslims and gays and a number of other things, but I am willing to work together with them to save lives,” he told The New York Times, which first reported the original news about the temporary hospital. “I feel like it is sort of like the steward on the Titanic as it is sinking — now is not the time to count the silverware, you have to get people into lifeboats.”

It was not immediately clear what happened between then and now for the project to be halted.

PHOTO: Interior of Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
Interior of Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The organization's Statement of Faith includes speech that says "human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage ... we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female."

Graham has also made comments of his own, including in April 2019 about former Democratic presidential nominee Pete Buttigieg.

"God’s Word defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised, or politicized," Graham said in a Facebook post about Buttigieg.

The cathedral spokeswoman said the church is now left with three possibilities: the space could still become a field hospital through another agency; the space could become a morgue or another useful facility; or the numbers could show that the space is not needed.

More than 1.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Confirmed cases in the United States have surged to at least 432,438, the most of any country.

New York has recorded the most confirmed cases of any U.S. state, while New York City has seen the highest number of fatalities.

What to know about Coronavirus:

ABC News' Chris Donato contributed to this report.

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