New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has leveled unfounded accusations at Christian ministry Samaritan’s Purse, claiming that the group will discriminate against LGBT individuals and offer “substandard care” in its field hospital deployed in Central Park.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
Samaritan’s Purse has worked in the health and medical field across the world battling Ebola in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the frontlines of war-torn Mosul and in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas. The idea that this ministry, which holds to a biblical view of marriage, would somehow discriminate against patients is completely ridiculous.
Before working at Focus on the Family, I worked at Samaritan’s Purse for four years and I personally know some of the men and women that have made the decision to leave their families behind in order to help people in the toughest of circumstances. I firmly believe that every member of the team will minister and treat any and everyone, regardless of sex, race, gender identity, age or condition, with respect, dignity and the love of Jesus Christ. To suggest otherwise demonstrates not only clear bias but also an extreme ignorance.
There is no better example of this callous misrepresentation than a Gothamist article by Jake Offenhartz, “Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care form the religious organization.”
Having seen the time, dedication and sacrifice that goes into each disaster response, I know that simply is not true. All of the medical staff are licensed and are highly qualified to treat patients in a variety of circumstances. It would be the same as any hospital.
The most disturbing was a comment from an unnamed doctor that was interviewed, “Anytime there’s a disaster, there’s going to be people taking advantage. We should not be politicizing health care in times of need, which is what this organization is all about.”
In a Twitter post, news producer Judah Robinson wrote, “The makeshift hospital in Central Park is being built and run by Samaritan’s Purse, the relief organization run by the notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ minister Franklin Graham. … Has the city simply overlooked the organization’s discriminatory history? Or has the city gotten assurances that LGBTQ+ patients won’t be turned away and treated with dignity? And if so, how does the city plan to monitor and enforce this?”
These unfounded accusations are solely based off of the believed “virulently anti-LGBTQ and Islamophobic preacher Franklin Graham” (the ministry’s CEO), not the ministry’s work. What the author fails to mention is that if the organization was so “Islamophobic,” why did it set up a field hospital in Mosul, Iraq to treat men, women and children fleeing the conflict as allied forces worked to retake the city? Some of the those treated may have even been ISIS combatants. That shows true compassion, not discrimination.
In the minds of progressives and others with radical political views, the idea that anyone would risk their lives to try and help others in the name of Jesus can seem ridiculous. It’s questionable whether many of the men and women complaining online would risk going to the front of a warzone with ISIS troops bearing down in Mosul, being on the ground to experience the aftermath of a genocide or facing an armed militia. But as Christians, we’re called to minister to people in any and all circumstances, regardless of the danger.
There’s a saying that I used to hear from my former boss at Samaritan’s Purse, Ken Isaacs: “The quality of our work will be the platform of our witness.” He’s currently on the ground in New York City overseeing the field hospital. As they treat patients, they’ll be sharing the real reason why they are there. It isn’t to discriminate, but instead to share the love of Jesus Christ.
I have no doubt that the biggest complaint that most people who are treated in the field hospital will have is that they’ve heard far too much about the love of Jesus Christ.