Helms Steps Squarely into Gays vs. Boy Scout Debate

Stepping squarely between two of the moment's more implacable foes, Republican Senator Jesse Helms has introduced legislation that would effectively cut off federal funding to public schools that refuse to allow Boy Scouts to use their facilities because of the group's stance on homosexuals.

Via an amendment to the education bill now snaking its way through Congress, the North Carolina senator is proposing to cut off federal largess to any school or educational agency that denies equal access to the Scouts or any youth group because of their "leadership criteria" or whether or not they have an "oath of allegiance to God and country."

In recent months, school districts in North Carolina, Florida, New York and several other states have restricted the Scouts' access to campus facilities, saying the group's ban on homosexuals violates the districts' anti-discrimination policies.

Such moves have become commonplace since last year, when, after a lengthy legal battle between gay rights groups and the Boy Scouts, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts, as a private organization, have the right to ban gay scoutmasters.

Helms said the purpose of withholding the money is not to hurt the schools financially but to force them to change their policy of undercutting the high court's decision.

"Those who demand everybody else's principles must be laid aside in order to protect the rights of homosexuals' conduct, they go on and on like Tennyson's brook," he said. "These radical militants are up to their same old tricks when targeting an honorable and respectable organization."

But one gay political group, the Human Rights Campaign, said it's Helms who is acting like a radical militant. The Boy Scouts already enjoy First Amendment protections, the group says, and Helms is trying to create special protections for the Boy Scouts by helping them in gaining access to school facilities.

A Senate vote on the funding issue is expected later this week.

Fox News' Sharon Kehnemui contributed to this report