A New Jersey jury on Thursday found JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), a nonprofit that provides supposed gay-to-straight conversion therapy, guilty of consumer fraud for falsely promising clients they could overcome their same-sex urges by doing things including undressing in front of other men, pummeling an effigy of their mothers, and re–enacting traumatic childhood experiences under JONAH's guidance. JONAH is backed by many haredi and Modern Orthodox rabbis.
A New Jersey jury on Thursday found a non-profit group that provides gay-to-straight conversion therapy guilty of consumer fraud for promising clients they could overcome their sexual urges by undressing in front of other men, pummeling an effigy of their mothers, and re–enacting traumatic childhood experiences.
In the first case in the nation to put the controversial practice on trial, the jury concluded that Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in Jersey City and life coach Alan Downing to whom JONAH referred patients, "engaged in unconscionable commercial practices" and misrepresented their services.
The verdict requires JONAH and Downing to refund thousands of dollars paid by former clients Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, and parents Jo Bruck and Bella Levin for the individual and group counseling sessions and the "journey into manhood" weekends in the woods. Downing charged $60 to $100 for group and individual sessions but shared 20 percent with JONAH to help defray its administrative costs.
After three hours of deliberations, the jury found Unger was entitled to $17,950; Chaim Levin was entitled to $650; his mother, Bella, $4,000; and Bruck's mother, Jo, $500.
But the victory has broader implications. The national civil rights legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center filed the case to take a stand against conversion therapy — a frequent target of public criticism since the passage of same-sex marriage laws and other LGBT legal protections. In 2013, New Jersey joined California by outlawing licensed therapists from providing the therapy to minors. Oregon and Washington D.C. followed. Last month, a bill was introduced in Congress would classify commercial conversion therapy and advertising that claims to change sexual orientation and gender identity as fraud.…
[The SPLC] said they would be asking the court for an injunction to stop JONAH from operating. They will also seek the payment of their attorneys fees, which is permitted under the consumer fraud act.
"This is something brutal based on lies, and it needs to stop" [the SPLC said]…
Read it all here.
[Hat Tip: Eugene.]