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March 09, 2006

Bond: Richmond "blessed" with ROSMY

Text of the letter written to us from Julian Bond, October 21, 2005.

Dear Rev. Foster:
I write to you to call your attention to a terrible wrong. I have become aware that your organization has published information about a social service agency in Richmond, Virginia that is not only incorrect, but is indeed harmful.

The agency is the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth or ROSMY. I understand that an unfortunate statement on the website led you to believe that this organization, in some way, promotes or condones activities that would be harmful to youth. Let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth.

Rev. Foster, we both know that the issue of homosexuality within the religious communities is divisive and strongly held beliefs exist across many dimensions. My intent here is not to request or encourage debate on this topic. My aim is, however, to help you understand that this organization shares, at its very core, your desire to protect young people. This agency, which has been in existence for 14 years, provides education and support to young people between the ages of 14 and 21. It partners with other local agencies to provide a wide array of programs and services all which work very hard to provide protection to a youth population that is highly at risk. The stories of life saving support this agency has provided are numerous.

The statement you saw on their website, was indeed, poorly worded. It was part of a recruitment effort to obtain volunteers to work on a grant-funded HIV-prevention education program. This is a national program which has been very successful at getting critical health-protection information directly into the hands of people who need it most. The web site has been properly updated.

ROSMY follows best-in-class procedures for background checks and screening of all staff and volunteers. Its board of directors and executive management are staffed with highly experienced professionals from the fields of mental health, social services and business. It has a highly dedicated team of volunteers that undergo rigorous training before working with youth. While receivng services, youth are always under the supervision of multiple staff members or volunteers and youth are separated by age so that younger and older youth are not together. ROSMY has received numerous awards and the support of foundations and corporations that believe in the importance of protecting our youth.

The allegations contained in your online publications and repeated in vast numbers of emails sent to ROSMY sponsors and stakeholders are hurtful and misinformed. This organization strives to protect its clients from predatory sexual advances. It would never promote of condone such activity, and it if becomes aware of any such activity, it would be reported immediately to the proper authorities.

Rev. Foster, this is a small agency that cannot afford to divert its attention, or its meager operation resources to fight unjust allegations that harm the very youth it strives to serve. The young people of Richmond, and indeed the entire community , are blessed to have the services of this agency. I ask you and urge you to please understand the irreparable harm that these actions and those of your followers are causing. Please reassure your followers that this agency--despite any report to the contrary-- follows the strictest precautions and protections and is in no way deserving of their scorn or distrust.

While the larger issue of homosexuality will be prayed over and debated within our religious communities --likely for some years to come-- untruths cannot possibly serve any good. The defamation of a charitable agency that seeks only to serve our young people is quite simply, wrong.

I thank you for your attention to this matter and I offer my sincerest wishes that you will understand that your brave desire to expose wrongdoing is, in this instance, misdirected.


/s/ Julian Bond
NAACP Board of Directors

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