Franklin Graham has released an official response after Samaritan’s Purse was heavily criticized in New York for the standards it set in asking for volunteers.
The Christian mission organization has stepped up on a large scale, building a field hospital in the epicenter of America’s COVID-19 outbreak. While others are fleeing the New York Metro area because it is a coronavirus hot spot, Samaritan’s Purse is running toward the need. The organization sent a rapid response team of chaplains to serve the city and even built a 68-bed field hospital near the Mt. Sinai hospital to help with overflow of patients.
There are helpers all over the country, buying groceries for at-risk neighbors, sewing masks for health care workers, and doing small acts of kindness for friends struggling with sudden job loss.
However, Samaritan’s Purse has been criticized because of a tweet from its president, Franklin Graham.
The tweet links to the Samaritan’s Purse website where they ask for volunteers to help serve the vulnerable and who agree with the mission statement of the organization. One of the 11 points in the mission statement is at the root of this controversy:
“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. 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.”
That one statement was enough to see many cast aside the work the organization was doing in America’s COVID-19 epicenter in favor of using the moment to call the charity out for its beliefs.
For this, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attacked Samaritan’s Purse as “biased” and accused the charity of discrimination. Samaritan’s Purse has never discriminated against its patients, but it does ask that those who represent the organization agree with the organization’s beliefs.
Mayor de Blasio expressed outrage at Samaritan’s Purse and promised action: “I said immediately to my team that we had to find out exactly what was happening…Was there going to be an approach that was truly consistent with the values [of] New York City.”
Franklin Graham, the President of Samaritan’s Purse, released a statement in which he stated, “While so many have expressed their appreciation and support, sadly some New York officials and a special interest group have expressed concerns or outright opposition to the presence of Samaritan’s Purse and our field hospital in Central Park.”
To date, the team has admitted some 130 patients, taking the pressure off already strained hospitals as the city tries to cope with the pandemic.
His full statement has been re-published below.
MY STATEMENT REGARDING OBJECTIONS TO SAMARITAN’S PURSE EMERGENCY FIELD HOSPITAL SERVING COVID-19 PATIENTS IN NEW YORK CITY
Sunday, Christians worldwide celebrated Easter, commemorating the historic resurrection of Jesus. Tragically, this was also the day New York surpassed a death toll of 10,000 people succumbing to the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19.
In recent weeks Americans have watched New York closely as the epicenter of this health crisis, accounting for nearly half of the country’s Coronavirus cases and deaths—more than 190,000 and 10,000 respectively.
We have watched daily press briefings by Governor Cuomo and others pleading for help and on April 1, in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and in response to urgent calls for hospital beds, medical equipment and staff, Samaritan’s Purse erected a 14-tent, 68-bed emergency field hospital in Central Park, staffed by a team of more than 70 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel and relief specialists. This respiratory care unit, which includes 10 ICU beds equipped with ventilators has admitted 119 patients during our first two weeks of operation.
While so many have expressed their appreciation and support, sadly some New York officials and a special interest group have expressed concerns or outright opposition to the presence of Samaritan’s Purse and our field hospital in Central Park. They include:
• Eight Democratic members of New York’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.
• New York City Commission on Human Rights
• Reclaim Pride Coalition
These groups share a common objection to the Statement of Faith which Samaritan’s Purse requires its employees to sign and generally asks its volunteers to support. While our Scriptural belief in marriage between a man and a woman seems particularly offensive to representatives of these three groups, we don’t believe this is the time or place to wage this debate. 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.
It’s true, for 50 years, we have asked our paid staff to subscribe to a Statement of Faith—but we have never asked any of the millions of people we have served to subscribe to anything. In other words, as a religious charity, while we lawfully hire staff who share our Christian beliefs, we do not discriminate in who we serve. We have provided billions of dollars of medical care and supplies, food and water, and emergency shelter without any conditions whatsoever. Our Christian faith compels us—like the biblical Good Samaritan—to love and serve everyone in need, regardless of their faith or background.
In a country that cherishes freedom of speech and religion we don’t object to opposition or criticism of our beliefs as a Christian organization. What we do object to is being harassed into diverting precious resources of time and energy and personnel away from serving COVID-19 patients in New York City in order to respond to demands for documents and other information from eight Democratic members of Congress, the Human Rights Commission and the Reclaim Pride Coalition—all while the death toll in New York continues to climb. If any of these groups had funded and erected their own emergency field hospitals to serve COVID-19 patients in Central Park, we would join what we believe would be most New Yorkers—and Americans—in applauding and praying for them, not harassing them.