PFOX in the World Bank Henhouse

World Bank's workplace-giving program is slated to include an organization that provides support for ''ex-gays''

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays – PFOX – will soon be able to say that its programming is supported by funding provided to it by the World Bank.

As part of the World Bank’s efforts to ”strengthen communities,” the Community Outreach Program coordinates an annual workplace-giving campaign that includes World Bank matching funds given to various community groups and international nonprofits. Depending on the level of employee participation, the bank’s matching funds are either 50 percent or 100 percent of the employee donations.

For the first time, the World Bank’s 2010-2011 Community Connections Campaign will include PFOX immediately above Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) on its list of eligible organizations, a fact confirmed Wednesday evening by a World Bank spokesperson.

The spokesperson told Metro Weekly in an email on Wednesday evening, ”The Bank is not endorsing this group, or any other group. Staff are free to give to the organization of their choice.”

The World Bank website notes that the ”Community Connections Fund is an independent nonprofit organization set up to oversee the allocation of charitable donations raised” from the campaign. It also details that ”[s]taff and retirees can make donations via payroll deductions or cash.”

According to materials obtained by Metro Weekly, the accuracy of which were confirmed by the World Bank spokesperson, any group included in the campaign must ”[b]e nominated by a World Bank Group staff member, with the support of at least four additional Bank Group staff and/or retirees.”

Other requirements include that the organization be incorporated as a ”not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization,” have ”a substantial local presence in the Greater Washington metropolitan area,” prepare ”an annual IRS Form 990” and adhere to a few other general provisions. The materials also note that the organization must ”[o]bserve and practice a policy of inclusivity and equal opportunity.”

The World Bank spokesperson wrote, ”Because Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) met the minimum criteria for inclusion on the Community Connections campaign, they were included this year.”

Additionally, the spokesperson wrote, ”The Bank’s Community Connections staff conducted due diligence including contacting the Bank staff group GLOBE (Gay and Lesbian or Bisexual Employees) for their perspective and views, as well as the independent, 501(c)(3) Community Connections Board.

He added that ”[t]here were no objections regarding the group’s meeting the minimum criteria for inclusion” but did not state whether there were any objections beyond whether or not the group met the ”minimum criteria.”

PFOX supports so-called ”conversion” therapy – by which people who identify as gay attempt to become ex-gay – and the National Association for Reparative Therapy (NARTH), specifically.

One of the few videos on the PFOX YouTube channel is a video of an interview with former NARTH president Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. Another shows a televised debate between PFOX’s Peter Sprigg and Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, who has been writing about the ex-gay organizations for more than a decade.

Besen told Metro Weekly on Wednesday afternoon, ”It’s as sickening as it is scandalous.”

Besen said that the former president of PFOX, Richard Cohen – who Besen described as ”the guru of the organization to this day” – runs the International Healing Foundation and ”sent his protégé to Uganda – and what came from that was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill” that has been the subject of intense worldwide scrutiny and criticism.

”Here’s this group that is tied to what can only be described as an eliminationist campaign, worldwide, against gay people,” Besen said, ”and they’re receiving money from the World Bank?”

The American Psychological Association has studied efforts to help people change their sexual orientation, resulting in a 2009 resolution concluding that ”there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.”

The resolution went on to ”encourage mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others’ sexual orientation.”

PFOX, however, describes its mission on its website by stating that, ”Each year thousands of men, women and teens with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality.

”However, there are those who refuse to respect that decision,” the site tells visitors. ”Consequently, formerly gay persons are reviled simply because they dare to exist! Without PFOX, ex-gays would have no voice in a hostile environment.”

Besen, though, said of the World Bank’s inclusion of PFOX in its campaign, ”It’s unbelievable that they’re putting forth a group that is rejected by every mental health organization out there. This is not a charity – or, is only in the most technical terms – this is a group that’s not designed to help people, but to hurt them.”

In addition to PFLAG – who the World Bank spokesperson noted ”has been a Community Connection charity for the past nine years” – other organizations that support the LGBT community and/or those with HIV/AIDS included as eligible organizations in the 2010-2011 list include Brother, Help Thyself; Food and Friends; Metro TeenAIDS; Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL); and Whitman-Walker Clinic.

Although PFOX has argued that sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws require that they be allowed to participate on equal footing with activities that allow the participation of groups like PFLAG, it was just last year that PFOX lost a court battle in D.C. when it attempted to force the National Education Association to give it space for a booth at one of its conferences.

In Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays Inc. v. Government of the District Office of Human Rights, D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross found – in a portion of the July 2009 ruling praised by PFOX – that professed ex-gays are ”protected from discrimination under the [D.C. Human Rights Act] because it directly contravenes the plain language and intent of the statute.”

Unfortunately for PFOX, and relevant to the question of whether PFOX needs to be allowed to participate in the World Bank’s Community Connections Campaign, Ross also found that the NEA was allowed to exclude PFOX from participating in the conference with a booth.

Ross wrote, ”NEA rejected PFOX’s application not based on their personal traits, but rather because of PFOX’s mission and message.”

He went on to explain, ”The NEA did not reject its application because PFOX’s members include ex-gays, homosexuals, heterosexuals, or members of any other sexual orientation. Rather, NEA rejected PFOX’s application because PFOX’s message and policies were, in NEA’s opinion, contrary to NEA’s policies regarding sexual orientation.”

In the World Bank’s 2010 Annual Report, the bank stated – in its ”Who We Are” section – ”The institution’s diverse workforce is critical to the effectiveness of the Bank’s core operational and knowledge services, as it brings a wide range of perspectives to bear on poverty reduction issues and emerging development challenges.”

Besen said that PFOX’s inclusion in the campaign could raise questions about the World Bank’s commitment to diversity – both in its workforce and in its programs.

”I think it undermines the World Bank’s claim to be a group that cares about diversity, and it really makes all of their programs suspect,” he said.

The World Bank spokesperson disagreed, writing, ”The World Bank Group is committed to a diverse staff, offering Domestic Partner benefits to same sex couples, including for health coverage, for over 10 years.”

He added that the World Bank ”was the first international financial institution to offer health care insurance coverage for same sex couples.

Besen noted that the move has implications for PFOX as well. ”I think what it also does with PFOX – they’re actually using the World Bank and exploiting them and their reputation to promote their agenda. And the World Bank shouldn’t fall for it.”

As for the next steps, Besen said that the World Bank ”shouldn’t endorse this whatsoever. They shouldn’t hide behind technicalities. Hatred is hatred.

”They should make an example of it. Say, this is not – PFOX does not represent our values.”

The World Bank spokesperson, however, told Metro Weekly only that ”Community Connections has made clear that they will take the views of staff, including GLOBE, in their consideration of what charities will be included next year.”

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