In a very important case, a state judge in New Jersey has ruled that the plaintiffs in a case filed against an organization that performs “reversion therapy” to convert gay people to straight people can recover treble damages under that state’s laws against fraud.
A judge has ruled that a New Jersey conversion therapy organization is potentially liable for the costs to repair the damage it inflicted on four young people by using dangerous and discredited efforts it claimed can convert people from gay to straight.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled today that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) and its co-defendants may be liable for three times the amounts the four men paid for subsequent, legitimate therapy to repair the psychological damage caused by JONAH’s conversion therapy program. JONAH’s program included nude sessions with counselors and “father-son holding.”
“These self-proclaimed experts inflicted grave damage upon our clients, who believed JONAH’s claims that it could ‘cure’ them of being gay,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “These young men were left with guilt, shame and frustration. No amount of money can fix the damage JONAH caused, but recognizing that JONAH can be held accountable for the cost of repairing that damage is an important step.”
The court rejected JONAH’s motion seeking to limit its liability. In its ruling, the court held that costs for legitimate therapy to repair damage caused by conversion therapy constitute an “ascertainable loss,” a prerequisite to seeking damages under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. The court also ruled that such costs can be recovered as “damages sustained” under the CFA, potentially allowing the SPLC’s clients to recoup three times the costs they incurred.
The type of services offered by JONAH – known as conversion therapy – have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.
Reversion therapy is fraud. It should be treated as such.