Four gay men claim in a lawsuit that
“ex-gay” therapy violates New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit on behalf of the men who say Jews
Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to
provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight.
JONAH founder Arthur Goldberg, a former
attorney who was disbarred, and counselor Alan Downing are accused of
violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act.
“JONAH profits off of shameful and
dangerous attempts to fix something that isn't broken,” Christine
P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC, said
in a statement. “Despite the consensus of mainstream
professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn't work, this
racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of
thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them.”
Chaim Levin, one of the plaintiffs,
disclosed at age 16 his sexual orientation to his parents, who sent
him to JONAH. He attended weekly sessions conducted by Downing for
“What I can tell you is that
conversion therapy does not work,” Levin said at a news conference
on Tuesday. “My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and
many hours on this scam.”
According to the lawsuit, Downing and
other counselors encouraged clients to blame their parents for their
sexuality, instructing clients to beat effigies of their mothers.
Other sessions involved clients undressing in front of a mirror. In
one instance, Downing is undressed as he instructs young men to stand
naked in a circle.
Governor Jerry Brown in September signed a bill outlawing such
therapies to minors.
“ex-gay” pastor Ryan Muehlhauser accused of sexually molesting 2