When Samaritan’s Purse, a global evangelical relief organization run by Franklin Graham, began setting up a large emergency field hospital in New York’s Central Park to care for the overflow of COVID-19 patients, a small but brash group of city leaders emphatically said the ministry was not welcome. Its Christian values were at odds with their city.
Apparently, these few assigned themselves the duty of deciding and declaring to everyone else what New York City values. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian group that takes a biblical and natural view of marriage, that it is between a man and woman. That’s an unacceptable idea in the Big Apple, according to this cadre, and a sympathetic media happily carried these leaders’ dramatic concerns to the masses.
When he learned of Samaritan’s Purse’s arrival at the invitation of Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called its leader Franklin Graham “notoriously bigoted” and “hate spewing.”
“This is very disturbing,” Johnson said. “We need reassurances from the city and from Mt. Sinai that Samaritan’s Purse and its volunteers will be monitored, and that the LGBTQ community will not be discriminated against in any way.”
Gotham’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders dispatched the New York City Commission on Human Rights to closely monitor Samaritan’s Purse to ensure anyone who identified as gay, lesbian, or transgender would not be mistreated or turned away.
News site AMNY confidently warned it was “clear that Samaritan’s Purse intends to inject its religious beliefs into the organization’s work, raising more red flags about the group’s intentions in Central Park.” It quoted Kelli Dunham, whom the site described as a “genderqueer comedian and author.” Dunham was freaked by the ministry’s arrival, saying, “This is scary as hell. In order to volunteer with this organization, you have to affirm their anti-LGBT and anti-trans statement of belief.” Dunham added, “Well it didn’t take too long into the pandemic to throw queer folks under the bus!”
Such comments were plentiful and circulated widely by many publications. A reader unfamiliar with the hair-trigger, victim-laden rhetoric of many in the gay and lesbian movement would have thought Samaritan’s Purse’s arrival in NYC would be as bad as the plague. Yet after having cared for their last of the 333 Wuhan virus patients they served since April 1, Samaritan’s Purse broke camp last week, with all volunteers heading home.
No Discrimination Was Reported
So what actually happened in the midst of these dramatic accusations of bigotry and homophobia? Just how many gays and lesbians did Samaritan’s Purse turn away or mistreat?
The number is rather anti-climactic for these activists. No media organization — not The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, the numerous LGBT print or online publications, nor the New York City Human Rights Commission itself — documented any case of any patient being turned away from Samaritan’s Purse’s services because of religious belief or sexual desire. No record existes of anyone being denied care for any reason. Everyone who needed help got it, no questions asked.
The New Times even noted, “On Friday afternoon, the City’s Commission on Human Rights closed an investigation into the [Samaritan’s Purse] hospital after finding no evidence it had discriminated against patients, according to its press secretary, Alicia McCauley.”
There was no evidence of any kind of discrimination. No journalist or watchdog group could document any patient complaining of caregivers forcing any unwanted Christian beliefs or practices upon them. The New York Times reported this was a deep concern because “the organization’s slogan, ‘Helping in Jesus’ name,’ was on trucks outside the field hospital and Mr. Graham delivered an Easter sermon on Fox News from the site.” For the good people at The Times, apparently “helping in Jesus’ name” means forcing people to listen to sermonizing.
Samaritan’s Purse workers sometimes asked patients if they wanted to be prayed for while receiving medical care. It’s what Christians do. No patients balked at the offer, nor complained they were being cared for by a distinctly Christian organization. Rather, New Yorkers were glad someone outside their city would disrupt their own lives and put themselves at risk just to help perfect strangers.
NYC Was Lucky to Have Samaritan’s Purse
If you believe Samaritan’s Purse didn’t live up to the nasty hype simply because they were being monitored, you are acutely cynical. Your prejudice is preventing you from bothering to find out how such organizations actually work and who they are committed to serving. You would find it’s precisely because of their Christian faith that they serve anyone and everyone in need.
At the very end of its article on the ministry’s wind-down in New York City, The New York Times did conclude that New Yorkers seemed more than pleased that Samaritan’s Purse was there:
[T]he controversy did not affect the daily routine of the field hospital. Workers there said they had been warmly welcomed by New Yorkers, who sent food and gathered to cheer for them at 7 p.m.
The Times quoted Jill Pike, a 30-year old woman who traveled from Oregon to volunteer. “We have been so well loved here, truly,” Pike said.
Of course, that the media found no trace of discrimination is no surprise to most people, who understand that Christian service organizations help all in need, regardless. For all the fear and loathing in NYC by a small, politically motivated group, Samaritan’s Purse’s presence resulted in nothing more than 333 total patients receiving excellent medical care in a time of great need.
Some of those happy, thankful, and now healthy patients were no doubt gay, lesbian, or transgender. They could tell you firsthand how kindly they were treated and cared for, no differently than anyone else. They will tell you that their supposed defenders’ dramatic concerns turned out to be profoundly unfounded.