News (USA)

N.J. judge: Conversion therapy practitioners could be liable for damages

Southern Poverty Law Center Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin
Southern Poverty Law Center Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin are among four young men and two of their parents who claim they were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices. SPLC

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A judge has ruled that a New Jersey conversion therapy organization is potentially liable for the costs to repair the damage it inflicted on four young people by using discredited therapy it claimed can convert people from gay to straight.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled Friday that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) and its co-defendants may be liable for three times the amounts the four men paid for subsequent, legitimate therapy to repair the psychological damage caused by JONAH’s conversion therapy program.

JONAH’s program included nude sessions with counselors and “father-son holding.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed this first-of-its-kind lawsuit against JONAH in 2012 alleging that JONAH, its founder, Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act through misrepresentations including the contention that their counseling services could cure clients of being gay.

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The case is expected to go to trial early next year.

“These self-proclaimed experts inflicted grave damage upon our clients, who believed JONAH’s claims that it could ‘cure’ them of being gay,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director.

“These young men were left with guilt, shame and frustration. No amount of money can fix the damage JONAH caused, but recognizing that JONAH can be held accountable for the cost of repairing that damage is an important step,” said Dinielli.

The type of services offered by JONAH – known as conversion therapy and reparative therapy – have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

More on the case is here

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