Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit disaster relief ministry known for working around the world, has been continually targeted by LGBT groups and reporters for CEO Franklin Graham’s support of biblical marriage and the ministry’s Statement of Faith.
The field hospital opened and operated by Samaritan’s Purse started taking its first patients on April 1. As a ministry, the organization is dedicated to treating all patients regardless of age, sex, race or sexual orientation. The local New York City and LGBT media challenges this and is doing everything in its power to disparage the ministry’s efforts to treat the sick.
One article, entitled “Christian NYC Tent Hospital Still Doesn’t Want Any Gay Help,” reports that New York State Senator Brad Holyman, who is gay, is apparently keeping a “close eye” on the ministry to ensure that it is not “turning patients away based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or lifestyle choices.”
Metro Weekly, Washington DCs largest and longest-running LGBTQ publication and website, has an article entitled, “Anti-Gay Preacher Franklin Graham Compares LGBTQ Medical Workers to Drunks and Drug Abusers.” Apparently, a gay identified activist attempted to volunteer but was turned down. He stated his willingness to work with them, “as long as he did not have to sign the statement of faith.”
Another article is entitled, “Evangelical Field Hospital Requires Health Workers to Take Anti-Gay Pledge.” The piece quotes Whitman-Walker Health, “a nonprofit community health organization that specializes in LGBTQ issues,” which stated, “Any discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer personas at the field hospital would be immoral, inconsistent with medical ethics, and violate New York City and State laws.”
This harassment isn’t just online either. Last week, actor and playwright William Talen, who has a persona called Reverend Billy who satirizes conservative religious figures and consumerism, jumped a barrier and attempted to plant a rainbow flag near the hospital. He was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. His actions were a danger both to himself and those working in the field hospital.
One state politician, Senator Holyman, also released a scathing statement about the ministry and its work: “For decades, Franklin Graham has traveled throughout the country preaching a gospel of bigotry and hate. He’s said advocacy for LGBTQ rights is ‘immoral’ and that marriage equality is ‘detestable.’ His organization supports those awful opinions and actively recruits volunteers who share them. Graham and his volunteers are free to adhere to whatever bigoted beliefs they’d like. But when they come to New York they need to abide by our Human Rights Law, which ensures marginalized New Yorkers are not subject to discrimination.”
Even some within the Christian community refused to support the work of Samaritan’s Purse due to concerns over LGBT issues. There were plans to convert the Cathedral of St. John the Divine into a makeshift hospital, but those plans were abruptly shelved. Though “officially” it’s no longer needed, The New York Times reports that the Episcopal leaders of the Church were “upset by the role played in the project by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical humanitarian organization whose approach to LGBT issues runs counter to that of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which is based out of the cathedral.”
Ironically, those who claim they are against discrimination and bigotry are doing the same to Samaritan’s Purse. It reflects an element of spiritual warfare that may be less dangerous but more intense than what was experienced when the field hospital was operating in Iraq. But knowing the people of Samaritan’s Purse as I do, having worked there for four years, I have no doubt they are doing everything they can to minister to others and help the sick and dying.
So, please keep the people working in the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in your prayers. Though they may be on home soil, that doesn’t mean the work, or the environment are any easier. In fact, the field hospital in New York City may be one of the most difficult assignments they face. But I have no doubt they are doing it with a smile, grace and a heart for ministry.