New Jersey

N.J. judge excludes key ‘conversion therapy’ experts in consumer fraud case

Southern Poverty Law Center Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin SPLC

Southern Poverty Law Center Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim LevinSPLC

Southern Poverty Law Center Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin

A New Jersey judge has ruled that several prominent proponents of gay-to-straight conversion therapy will not be allowed to testify in a consumer-fraud case brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center against a conversion therapy organization.

Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. on Thursday excluded Joseph Nicolosi, Christopher Doyle, Dr. James Phelan and Dr. John Diggs as witnesses for the defense, holding that their opinions are based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder.

Bariso wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”

In New Jersey, scientific expert opinions must be based on premises and methodology generally accepted within the relevant professional field.

Trial in the lawsuit against the New Jersey-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) is scheduled to begin in the early summer of 2015.

The judge’s ruling indicates that he sees much of the JONAH experts’ planned testimony as irrelevant.

“Today’s decision is a major development in our effort to show that conversion therapy is a complete sham masquerading as science,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the SPLC.

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“Conversion therapy lacks any such basis and its most prominent proponents – including Joseph Nicolosi – hold views that are so discredited that the supposed ‘experts’ are not even permitted to testify in a court of law. Proponents of this bogus therapy lack any valid basis for their opinions promoting the abusive practice, yet they continue to scam vulnerable gay people and inflict significant, long-term psychological harm,” said Dinielli.

The 2012 SPLC lawsuit, filed on behalf of former JONAH clients and two parents of former clients, charges that JONAH, its founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.

The complaint alleges that JONAH used deceptive practices to lure the plaintiffs into their services, which can cost some clients more than $10,000 per year.

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