Judge orders New Jersey ‘gay conversion’ nonprofit to close

Clients in the JONAH case, from left to right: Chaim Levin, Michael Ferguson, Benjy Unger, Jo and Sheldon Bruck.

Clients in the JONAH case, from left to right: Chaim Levin, Michael Ferguson, Benjy Unger, Jo and Sheldon Bruck. Karsten Moran, via Southern Poverty Law Center

Clients in the JONAH case, from left to right: Chaim Levin, Michael Ferguson, Benjy Unger, Jo and Sheldon Bruck. Karsten Moran, via Southern Poverty Law Center

Clients in the JONAH case, from left to right: Chaim Levin, Michael Ferguson, Benjy Unger, Jo and Sheldon Bruck.

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey nonprofit found to have violated consumer fraud laws for offering therapy it said would turn gays to heterosexuals must shut down, a judge ordered Friday.

The granting of a permanent injunction against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, known as JONAH, was an outgrowth of a lawsuit filed against the group in 2012 by several men, and two of their mothers, claiming it engaged in fraud and made claims it couldn’t back up.

In June, a Hudson County jury awarded the plaintiffs about $72,000 in damages.

The ruling signed Friday by state Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso ordered Jersey City-based JONAH to cease all operations within 30 days and barred it from “engaging, whether directly or through referrals, in any therapy, counseling, treatment or activity that has the goal of changing, affecting or influencing sexual orientation, ‘same sex attraction’ or ‘gender wholeness.'”

Bariso’s order also awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

David Dinielli, an attorney for the men, said the decision sends a message to providers of so-called gay conversion therapy that the practice is fraudulent.

“The practice of conversion therapy, at base, constitutes fraud,” he said. “It is premised on the lie that homosexuality is a disease or disorder. This case proved it to be a lie.”

During the trial, JONAH officials claimed they did not make guarantees to clients and that they should be allowed to offer help to people struggling with their sexual orientation.

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