Four gay men and two mothers have filed lawsuits against a New Jersey gay conversion therapy group that claimed it could make them straight, saying the clinic is a fraud.
The lawsuit filed against Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) claims that the methods used by the conversion therapy group do not work, reports ABC News.
Along with JONAH, the group’s co-director, Arthur Goldberg, and a “life coach” named Alan Downing (who provides the therapy sessions) were named in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Inger, Sheldon Bruck, and Chaim Levin. Two of their mothers, Jo Bruck and Bella LEvin, are also named. All of the men sought help at JONAH for gay conversion therapy, which they all say did not work.
The plaintiffs sought legal help from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC claims that conversion therapy is actually a dangerous practice and has been “discredited or highly criticized” by every major American medical, psychiatric, psychological, and professional organization.
CNN notes that one defendant, Sheldon Bruck, was promised by Goldberg that “JONAH could help him change his orientation from gay to straight.” Each defendant is claiming that they were defrauded by the group, who claims that “being gay is a mental disorder” that can be reversed through conversion therapy.
The therapy can cost up to $10,000 each year. The suit states that the therapy put them at risk of “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior,” but gave them no benefits. Two of the men’s mothers are involved in the suit, because they paid for their sons to have the therapy, as well as the counseling they received afterwards.
Some of the conversion therapy techniques the men were put through included them stripping naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimately holding others of the same sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers using 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.”
Chaim Levin, who is also an Orthodox Jew, attended therapy sessions at JONAH for 18 months. He spoke with his parents when he came out about sexual abuse he suffered when he was younger. Levin stated at a news conference about the lawsuit on Tuesday:
“I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation, but instead I was subjected to terrible abuse that mirrored the traumatic assault that I experienced as a young person. What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many house on this scam.”
Samuel Wolfe, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated that the lawsuit should be a wake up call to the 70 plus conversion therapy providers across the United States, because it shows they can be held accountable for their actions. Wolfe stated:
“We really want to bring this lawsuit to bring attention to this practice that takes place in many parts of the country, preying on vulnerable young people.”
A law signed in California by Governor Jerry Brown last month makes it illegal for conversion therapists to treat anyone under the age of 18.
Do you think that conversion therapy works, or are these four men right to sue for fraud and the psychological damage the therapy caused them?