Samaritan’s Purse opened an emergency field hospital in New York City this week to serve COVID-19 patients, but one prominent member of the city council says the Christian ministry isn’t welcome.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson released a statement Tuesday criticizing Samaritan’s Purse, which set up a 14-tent, 68-bed respiratory care unit in Central Park. It is working in partnership with the Mount Sinai Health System.
Franklin Graham is CEO and president of Samaritan’s Purse.
“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,” Johnson said in the statement. “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.”
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. I will be monitoring this situation closely.— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) April 1, 2020
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/2cg6dHYHwA
The state of New York has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, too, expressed concern but didn’t go as far as Johnson in his comments.
“We're going to send people over from the mayor's office to monitor,” de Blasio said, according to New York Public Radio’s Gothamist website. “I am very concerned that this is done right. But if it is done right, we need all the help we can get.”
New York media has focused on Graham’s traditional Christian beliefs but also the Samaritan’s Purse requirement that doctors and nurses be Christian.
Graham told Newsmax TV’s Spicer & Co he hasn’t had any problems with the New Yorkers he’s met.
“They were just excited that we were there – and that we're coming to help the people in New York,” Graham said. “We don't discriminate. Anybody who comes to our doors, regardless of their faith, their sexual orientation, their religion – it doesn't matter, we help everybody the same. And we love everybody the same. And I want everyone to know that God loves them, too.”
"We're coming to help the people of New York, and of course we don't discriminate," @Franklin_Graham tells @seanspicer on his COVID-19 relief efforts.— Newsmax (@newsmax) April 1, 2020
"We love everybody the same, and I want everyone to know that God loves them too." https://t.co/VlT7z8drtO pic.twitter.com/T2AtJlZJWt
Earlier this week, Graham urged people to “come together and work together to save lives.”
Johnson’s statement – also posted on Twitter – received plenty of pushback.
“As a gay New Yorker, I’d like to sit down with them over a cup of coffee and thank them for putting themselves in harm’s way,” one person wrote. “That’s how change of heart happens. They are risking their lives. We should be grateful.”
“Christians build a free hospital to help New Yorkers survive this crisis and you complain? Despicable,” another person wrote.
Denny Burk, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, tweeted that “every branch of Christianity throughout history” would agree with Samaritan’s Purse’s beliefs on sexuality.
“This is simply what Xtians have always believed. To fault Samaritan’s Purse for believing these things is to fault them for being Xtian,” Burk wrote.
Again, every branch of Christianity throughout history would agree with this statement—Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, etc. This is simply what Xtians have always believed. To fault Samaritan’s Purse for believing these things is to fault them for being Xtian.— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) April 1, 2020
Photo courtesy: ©Samaritan's Purse
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.