A New Jersey judge on Friday ordered
the closure of a nonprofit that offered to turn gays to
Four gay men sued Jews Offering New
Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), claiming that the therapy they
received violates the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
The men were represented by the
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in this first-of-its-kind lawsuit.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter
F. Bariso Jr.'s ruling requires JONAH to shut down and prohibits
founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing from engaging in
any form of conversion therapy commerce in the state.
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.
During a press conference in 2012 to
announce the lawsuit, Chaim Levin, one of the plaintiffs, said that
he and his family had spend thousands of dollars on “this scam.”
“JONAH's conversion therapy program
harmed countless LGBT people and their families,” said
David Dinielli, deputy legal director at SPLC. “JONAH peddled
discredited, pseudo-scientific treatments to people who weren't sick,
who weren't broken, and who needed nothing but love and support.”
“The end of JONAH signals that
conversion therapy, however packaged, is fraudulent – plain and
simple. Other conversion therapy providers would be well-advised to
examine what happened to JONAH, and to abandon their foolish efforts
to make gay people straight,” he added.
An attorney who represented JONAH in
the lawsuit said that it was “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.”