Metro Weekly reporter Chris Geidner has discovered that Parents and Friends of Ex-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.

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.”

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.”

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.”