WASHINGTON — A Virginia-based family group has asked Congress to withhold federal funds to schools that participate in Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America Inc. programs.

The group, called Public Advocates, says the action is necessary to prevent homosexual men from preying on young boys.

The group's announcement came just weeks after Big Brothers Big Sisters announced July 1 that all 490 of its affiliates had been instructed to implement an antidiscrimination policy that included “sexual orientation.”

“No agency of a government-sponsored public school should knowingly hand over minor children under 18 to adult homosexuals as a matter of policy,” said Eugene Delgaudio, president of Public Advocates. “It is a tragedy that a group that has provided worthy programs for children is recklessly abandoning the well-being of children to satisfy the radical homosexual lobby.”

The proposed legislative action has caused some interest, but “right now, not everybody's ready to jump on Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America,” said Public Advocates spokesman Jesse Binnall.

Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America matches at-risk children and teen-agers with adult role models. The program currently has 220,000 youngsters placed with mentors. More than 70,000 of those matches are made through school programs in which the mentors make lunchtime visits.

Most Big Brothers-Big Sisters affiliates ask about the sexual orientation of the mentors. In the home-based program, the child's parent has to approve any mentor.

But that freedom is not enjoyed in the school-based program, which is what is causing concern among family groups.

“This policy is a brazen affront to parents with deeply held religious beliefs, not to mention a potential hazard to the well-being of children everywhere,” said Dr. Bill Maier, a psychologist working for Colorado-based Focus on the Family.

Maier noted that the charity's timing couldn't be worse.

“Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America should learn from the recent Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal and realize that matching fatherless boys, starving for attention, with homosexual men is reckless and irresponsible, not to mention a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Big Brothers-Big Sisters President Judy Vredenburgh said her organization has had this nondiscriminatory policy for 25 years. Only in July, however, did local affiliates have to implement the policy.

She also stated that the 98-year-old organization would keep its recent policy change.

“We're getting incredible, positive support for the action we took,” Vredenburgh said.

Reaction

But officials at the Big Brothers-Big Sisters in Phoenix received more than 20,000 complaints in 24 hours. Many have pledged to withdraw financial support.

The loss of funds might influence the policy, admitted Big Brothers-Big Sisters spokeswoman Noreen Shanfelter.

“We're looking at a variety of issues and possible impacts and, of course, one of those has to be donations,” she said.

One affiliate won't wait for the national headquarters to change its mind. The Big Brothers-Big Sisters affiliate in Owensboro, Ky., is now called Quest for Kids.

“Our board voted to disaffiliate with the national organization, change our name and refine the organization in an effort to help more children realize their highest potential,” Chairman Brad Rhoads said.

He said the disaffiliation was necessary to keep the focus on helping children.

“We're trying to stay focused on what our mission is: to find good Christian people to mentor young children in need,” Rhoads said.

A month after the disaffiliation, donations and volunteers at Quest for Kids are up. It has 90 potential volunteers in the process of becoming mentors or on a waiting list to be matched, Rhoads said, and it continues to receive volunteer inquiries.

“We have received wonderful support from the community,” he said.

Well-Founded Concerns

Tim Dailey, a senior fellow for culture studies at the Family Research Council, said research suggests that the concerns expressed by the Owensboro affiliate are well-founded.

“Although heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by a ratio of at least 20 to 1, homosexual pedophiles commit about one-third of the total number of child sex offenses,” he said.

Dailey released a report in May detailing the link between homosexuality and child abuse. He noted that even homosexuals acknowledge the link.

“In The Gay Report, by homosexual researchers Karla Jay and Allen Young, the authors report data showing that 73% of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys 16 to 19 years of age or younger,” Dailey said.

Dailey also noted a quote from the New York City's left-wing publication, The Village Voice: “Gay fiction is rich with idyllic accounts of ‘intergenerational relationships,’ as such affairs are respectfully called these days.”

Young boys will be targets of abuse, Dailey said, unless Big Brothers-Big Sisters changes its policy.

“Would you put an adult male with an adolescent female? I don't think they'd allow that. Not that every male would abuse. But it's the same dynamic,” Dailey said.

For now, the new policy is causing tensions among those affiliated with Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

“In my community, I think there's a lot of resistance,” said a local director from the Midwest who wished to remain anonymous. “We really don't want to belittle anyone who is homosexual. At the same time I don't want to be a party to anything that could endanger a child. I think we're sacrificing the integrity of the organization.”

Joshua Mercer writes from Minneapolis.