On April 1, Samaritan’s Purse — the humanitarian arm of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — descended on New York City to set up an emergency field hospital, where they have served at least 130 patients stricken with COVID-19. Despite the organization’s good work in Central Park, a handful of loud critics have bemoaned the group’s Christian principles, with one New York-based commentator penning an article about the outfit’s “history of bigotry.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson even said he would be happier if Samaritan’s Purse, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, wasn’t in the city at all.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, said he’d send some of his staff to “monitor” Samaritan’s Purse. All because of the organization’s Christian roots.
Though the organization’s critics are loud, their numbers are small.
In a statement posted Tuesday, Graham pushed back against those who have nothing better to do than ridicule the convictions of the people who have traveled from North Carolina to New York to help those suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, most of whom are working 12 hour days.
One nurse, Sonja Nisley, told the Powell Tribune she believes God “created us to serve, and there’s great joy when we’re doing that.”
Nevertheless, much of the rebuke for Samaritan’s Purse hinges on the fact that paid staff are required to sign a statement of faith, indicating they agree with the organization’s mainstream Christian interpretation of issues like marriage and sexuality.
While Samaritan’s Purse asks its workers to adhere to those biblical principles, Graham made clear his group has never — and will never — turn someone in need away due to his or her sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
“We don’t believe this is the time or place to wage this debate,” he said. “Samaritan’s Purse is a decidedly Christian private relief organization, funded almost entirely by individuals around the world who share our passion for providing aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution — and doing so in Jesus’ name.”
“It seems 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,” the evangelist added.
As of April 13, New York City had 106,813 confirmed cases, nearly 30,000 hospitalizations, and more than 6,000 deaths.
Graham understands the trouble New Yorkers are facing. And Samaritan’s Purse is there to help, despite objections from some progressive lawmakers and pro-LGBTQ groups.
“If any of these groups had funded and erected their own emergency field hospitals to serve COVID-19 patients in Central Park,” Graham added, “we would join what we believe would be most New Yorkers — and Americans — in applauding and praying for them, not harassing them.”