Judge orders New Jersey ‘gay conversion’ nonprofit to close

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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.

“It is sad that so many are celebrating the government’s power to stop willing clients from working with willing counselors to lead their lives on Biblical principles,” Charles LiMandri, an attorney who represented JONAH, said in an email Friday. “Despite the many grounds for appeal, the financial risks to my client, who has never made any personal profit out of volunteering to help men troubled with unwanted same-sex attraction, made this deal necessary.”

The four original plaintiffs in the lawsuit who underwent the therapy — one ultimately dropped out of the suit — alleged the nonprofit exploited them with false promises as they struggled with their same-sex attractions in strict religious environments where they were expected to marry women and have children.

One testified his therapy included hitting a pillow, meant to represent his mother, with a tennis racket. He said he was told his mother was the cause of his homosexuality, prompting him to temporarily cut off all communications with her.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2013 banning licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy in New Jersey. Two court challenges to the ban, one by a couple and their son and one by a group that included two licensed therapists, were dismissed by a federal judge. Those decisions were later affirmed by a federal appeals court.

New Jersey’s ban was not raised during the trial because JONAH employees weren’t licensed therapists.

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