Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian humanitarian aid organization fronted by Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham. His beliefs are roughly the same as his father’s, an evangelist who was on Gallup’s list of the most admired men in America for 61 years.
The Bible hasn’t really changed much over the past century, as you’re no doubt aware. We have, and now Franklin Graham is, according to NBC News, an “antigay evangelist” and his organization’s COVID-19 response has been criticized not because of its efficacy, but because of its faith-based provenance.
The most visible of Samaritan’s Purse’s COVID-19-centric relief efforts is a respiratory care unit in New York City’s Central Park. It’s a 68-bed facility that’s supposed to relieve pressure on Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
That would ordinarily be good news — and it is. Liberal politicians have several issues with Samaritan’s Purse, however.
One is that the group requires individuals to sign a statement of faith. This isn’t wholly unusual, but the media has seized upon this part: “We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other,” item nine reads.
“God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”
Ten of the 11 points, NBC News notes, deal with “doctrinal issues.” All of the points deal with beliefs common among Christians and are grounded in the idea that the Bible is the word of God.
Also controversial was this tweet from the organization in which Graham called for Christian medical professionals to volunteer:
If you are a Christian doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other medical professional interested in serving COVID-19 patients in our @SamaritansPurse Emergency Field Hospital in NYC, please visit https://t.co/EEw1jNtrrk. pic.twitter.com/5i7EeKxLDi
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 29, 2020
No evidence is given that they’ve rejected non-Christians willing to abide by the statement of faith, and it’s clear from watching the clip it’s a call for action among the organization’s base of supporters — who, you may not be surprised to learn, is primarily Christian.
And then there’s Graham himself, who’s made statements controversial with the media and the left.
Most of these have to do with LGBT individuals and the Islamic faith. His statements on Islam have been mostly elided over by the press and politicians, who are more than willing to focus on his statements on same-sex relationships and transgender issues.
Take New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who said on Twitter that it’s “a shame that the federal government has left New York with no other choice but to accept charity from bigots.”
It’s a shame that the federal government has left New York with no other choice but to accept charity from bigots. https://t.co/rFSDitIn5Q
— Senator Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) March 31, 2020
Hoylman, who represents Manhattan, reiterated his tacit objections to Samaritan’s Purse’s involvement in the COVID-19 crisis response effort on Monday. In a statement, Hoylman says he wished the city was in a place where they could reject Graham’s help and said he and unspecified others would “be watching.”
“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should Franklin Graham. 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,’” Hoylman’s statement read.
“Today I’m calling on Franklin Graham to publicly assure LGBTQ New Yorkers that they will receive the same treatment as anyone else at the Central Park field hospital. The City of New York and the Mount Sinai hospital network must monitor conditions closely at Graham’s facility and ensure every single LGBTQ patient is treated fairly. We cannot abandon our moral compass in the middle of a pandemic.
“Sadly, beggars can’t be choosers: New York needs every ventilator we can get. 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.”
Hoylman, you probably won’t be surprised to discover, wasn’t alone.
“We’re going to send people over from the mayor’s office to monitor” Samaritan’s Purse, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Tuesday, according to Gothamist. “I am very concerned that this is done right. But if it is done right, we need all the help we can get.”
He added that the organization had pledged that they would provide care “truly consistent with the values and the laws of New York City.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, meanwhile, said Graham “has a long history of spewing anti-LGBTQ hate speech, and found it “extremely troubling that he and his organization are involved in our relief efforts in any way.”
Johnson said he would be watching the situation closely.
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.
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/2cg6dHYHwA
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) April 1, 2020
Samaritan’s Purse has a pretty long history of providing humanitarian aid.
I find it curious that a number of people and entities which don’t have a lot of bandwidth to deal with coronavirus in what’s likely the biggest COVID-19 hotspot in the world at present either a) will spend some of their resources monitoring how Samaritan’s Purse deals with LGBT individuals or b) thought their constituents would find it comforting that they said they’d be expending resources monitoring the situation.
Neither one seems comforting.
“We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status. We certainly do not discriminate, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that,” Graham said in a statement to NBC News.
“This is a time for all of us to unite and work together, regardless of our political views. Let’s support one another during this crisis, and we pray that God will bless the efforts of all those battling this vicious virus.”
He made roughly the same pledge in a Newsmax appearance on Wednesday:
— Newsmax (@newsmax) April 1, 2020
“We help everybody the same, and we love everybody the same and I want everyone to know that God loves them too,” Graham told host Sean Spicer.
And what did you think he was going to say? Is Samaritan’s Purse going to turn away patients based on the fact they’re LGBT individuals? Of course not.
They’re not going to ask who they’re in a relationship with when they’re transferred to the unit — and there’s no evidence to say they would behave differently toward patients even if they discovered they were gay or transgender.
It’s interesting to note that the one person involved in this who’s basically pledged to put their ideological differences to the side in order to ensure care for patients is Graham — the one who’s supposed to be the hateful wretch.
Samaritan’s Purse has done good work for decades. You can disagree with Franklin Graham and the organization’s Christian roots while still conceding that.
If the media wants to make this a thing, that’s problematic, but predictable.
There’s something deeply vulgar, in this moment of our history, for politicians to issue statements condemning the organization’s Christian beliefs in the strongest terms but then saying that they guess they’ll have to accept the aid, given there’s no other choice.
Where’s the bias again?
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