After a month, anti-LGBTQ activist Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse, his relief agency, appear to be winding down operations at the Central Park tent hospital. Gothamist reported that the tent hospital would be closing up within two weeks.
The presence of Samaritan’s Purse in the city drew increasing controversy over the past few weeks —as officials denounced the group’s politics, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine backed out of an agreement to allow the group operate an overflow facility inside the church. Progressive activist Billy Talen—AKA Reverend Billy — was arrested for planting a rainbow flag near the facility.
During the past month, Graham repeatedly appeared in the media to ask the public to ignore his previous violent anti-LGBTQ statements, including, ”it’s the flames of hell for you” and supporting Russia’s draconian laws against “gay propaganda.” Instead, he wanted people to “come together” to support his tent hospital, including its discrimination in hiring. His claim was that New York City, with its diverse and inclusive population, needed his help too badly to care about differences in who is worthy of the kingdom of heaven.
Murmuring that Samaritan’s Purse medical professionals might be moving into the Mount Sinai hospital, replete with logos of the organization, got the attention of LGBTQ leaders in New York City.
LGBTQ elected leaders decried the move on social media:
NEW: USNS Comfort is leaving NYC. Javits is shuttering as a temporary COVID-19 hospital. But what is @MountSinaiNYC doing with the field hospital run by Samaritan’s Purse, which rejects gay volunteers?
They’re inviting them to stay on at the Beth Israel campus.
I’m appalled. pic.twitter.com/eBGZsmBRNd
— Senator Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) May 1, 2020
My statement on Samaritan’s Purse:
It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed. 1/
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) May 1, 2020
Likewise, Reclaim Pride held a protest outside Mount Sinai hospital, the sponsoring medial system who cestablished the partnership with Samaritan’s Purse to allow its presence in New York City.
For Graham and Samaritan’s Purse, setting up a tent city in New York City is too good of a public relations and fundraising opportunity. As of this writing, Samaritan’s Purse’s web page features stories that include the New York tent hospital, each one with a fundraising link. An expansive COVID-19 press kit is filled with press releases, high quality photos, and videos, to make sure that everyone knows that Graham is doing good works (I’m using Samaritan’s Purse photos for this very blog). Far from Jesus admonition, “Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing,” Graham has been seeking out media attention for his well-branded hospital.
Perhaps more valuable than the publicity of his good deeds, Graham also knew that he’d encounter skepticism and scrutiny in New York City. He knew that he’d get responses like Hoylman’s, Johnsons, and even mine. He knew that forcing doctors to sign a faith statement that condemned LGBTQ people to the flames of hell ran counter to New York City nondiscrimination law. He knew that a high profile pairing and then separation with an LGBTQ-inclusive church like St. John the Divine would only bolster his victim credibility. He knew he’d be criticized about his continuous and well-documented attacks on LGBTQ people. Never mind those patients on ventilators; the real victim here is Graham, who is being questioned while he rolls into town to enthrone himself as savior of the city.
No thank you, Franklin. I’m going with the words of the psalmist, who says, “God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.”
Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.
New York City didn’t need you or Samaritan’s Purse to save us. God has blessed this city with every sort of person possible, with a variety of gifts, skills, and talents. God made this city a refuge for LGBTQ people who were kicked out of their homes because of the urging of you and your colleagues. God gave us Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, all who care about their neighbor and working together to keep the city safe.
While you were here, you got great press attention. You got to build some credibility with your base. You got to score some political points with the Trump administration, who has been playing games with our lives since the start of the coronavirus. You got to raise funds and look like the hero you always wanted to be. Heck, you even got an Easter morning segment on Fox News, where tents housing patients got to be your backdrop.
But now it’s time to go home. Coronavirus is not only in New York City, but it is also in North Carolina, which has over 10,000 cases. When those in your hometown fall sick, a whole host of people, including LGBTQ people, will be there to care for the sick and bring healing. They’ll do it because they care for their neighbor, not for attention or fundraising.
So pack up your tents, fold the scrubs, take in whatever sights are open at the moment, and remember that New York City gave you everything you wanted when you rolled into town a month ago. Remember that when you feel the urge to bash the city for our values.