Judge rules against gay cure quackery
Gay cure therapists have been described by a US Superior Court Judge, Peter F Bariso Jr, as fraudsters.
The judge’s ruling, according to this report, gives an important legal edge to four men and two parents suing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH. They have acused the Jersey City organisation that promotes gay-to-straight treatment of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
The decision is bound to have a far-reaching impact, said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center which brought the lawsuit.
This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry. For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured. This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients.
In his ruling last week Bariso wrote:
It is a misrepresentation in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease (or) disorder.
The ruling also said conversion therapists could not advertise their “success rate” of turning people into heterosexuals because:
There is no factual basis for calculating these statistics.
This is Bariso’s second ruling favouring the plaintiffs. The judge also barred the defence from calling several of the controversial treatment’s proponents as witnesses because they had planned to offer scientifically refuted testimony that homosexuality is an illness. In that ruling, he said:
The overwhelming weight of scientific authority concludes that homosexuality is not a disorder or abnormal.
Charles LiMandri, President and Chief Counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund that is representing JONAH, said he remains confident a jury will side with his clients “who were only trying to help people.”
JONAH never made money from the treatment, but rather referred clients to therapists who charged for their services, LiMandri said. At no time did they “advertise” success rates – estimated as one-third successful, one-third somewhat beneficial, and one-third unsuccessful, he said.
LiMandri said the therapists are not licensed and are often members of the clergy. They were not identifying being gay as a disorder “in a scientific sense,” he said.
This is not a situation in which people are forced into something they don’t want to do. They are trying to deprive plaintiffs of freedom of choice. Americans want people to have the right to free self determination. I believe when the jury hears all the facts. they will ultimately decide in favor of our clients.
Arthur Goldberg, a co-director at JONAH who is also named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the judge’s ruling. Alan Downing, a life coach and an unlicenced therapist who provides the treatment, is also named in the lawsuit.
Legal issues still remain when the case goes to trial this summer, Dinielli said.
The plaintiffs in the case – Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, Bella Levin and Jo Bruck – claim those went to the therapists were coerced into engaging in demeaning and emotionally damaging behavior.
According to this report, the conversion therapy techniques included having them strip naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimately holding others of the same sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers with a tennis racket, visiting bath houses “in order to be nude with father figures,” and being “subjected to ridicule as ‘faggots’ and ‘homos’ in mock locker room scenarios,” the suit said.
Michael Ferguson, pictured above, said:
I watched as grown men were frenzied into fits of emotional rage against their mothers and encouraged to act out physical violence against their parents in order to access their so-called true manhood and become more heterosexual.
Jo Bruck, Sheldon’s mother, and Bella Levin, the mother of plaintiff Chaim Levin, are plaintiffs because they paid for their sons’ conversion therapy, which can cost up to $10,000 dollars a year.
Bruck quit after five sessions, delivered through an online video link, because:
He experienced deepening depression and anxiety leading to suicidal ideation and feelings of hopelessness about his life.
Levin attended weekly sessions for 18 months at JONAH’s Jersey City, New Jersey, headquarters conducted by Downing. Levin said:
I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation, but instead I was subjected to terrible abuse … What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many hours on this scam
JONAH’s mission statement reads:
Our Rabbinical sages explain that because mankind has been endowed by our Creator with a free will, everyone has the capacity to change. Furthermore, the Rabbis emphasize that parents, teachers and counselors have a special responsibility to educate, nurture, and provide an opportunity for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions to journey out of homosexuality.