Gay Conversion Ministry Sued for Fraud

Gay Conversion Ministry Sued for Fraud November 27, 2012

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that they’re suing a “conversion ministry” of defrauding clients by claiming they could “cure” people of their gayness:

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. These services, known as conversion therapy, have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the New Jersey conversion therapy organization for fraudulent practices. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charged that JONAH, its founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming that their counseling services could cure clients of being gay.

The lawsuit describes how the plaintiffs – four young men and two of their parents – were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.

Customers of JONAH’s services typically paid a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions. The lawsuit describes sessions that involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with the counselor, Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrestle away two oranges – used to represent testicles – from another individual.

via Michael Ferguson, et al., v. JONAH, et al. | Southern Poverty Law Center.

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  • Craig

    The orange-testicle wrestling makes quite a lot of sense, in theory.

  • Mike

    I’m more of an apple person myself

  • Over/under on how many days until Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing come out of the closet?

  • Sven

    JONAH and other “conversion therapists” are charlatans who prey on vulnerable people. Bankrupt every last one of them!

    • Simon

      Sven, in defense of charlatans:

      This is tough. The “therapy” described in the complaint sounds more like sexual abuse to me, but I think the case will be thrown out, and probably rightly so.

      This will be a very hard case to win. I suspect this law suit is more about publicity.

      Rather than suing for assault, malpractice (if licensed), negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress (probably more appropriate to the facts), or another tort, they are trying to make hay with a consumer fraud statute. By purposely choosing not to bring these other causes of action in this complaint, the plaintiffs are waiving their right to bring them in the future. The end game here is to force the court to say that it is consumer fraud to promise “healing for homosexuality.” That strikes me as an attempt to silence religious speech.

      My guess is that this case gets thrown out with an early motion for summary judgment, and in my mind that would be a good thing. I am not suggesting that showering naked with “father figures” while playing pinata with an effigy of your mother is okay. Its not. Also, if I were gay, I can’t imagine cuddling with the fellas would change my attraction to other men.

      But we should set a precedent for people to sue when they find religion is “unsuccessful,” which is really all that they are claiming. Even when I might agree with a judge or a jury that someone is false practitioner of a false religion, I don’t want the government deciding that for its citizens. Even when I think that religion is harmful (and it often is), I don’t think the government should be making that call. Some religions make harmful claims about the subservience of women or other races. Terrible, immoral; not unlawful.

      This doesn’t seem like consumer fraud as much as it is perversion.

      • Sven

        If JONAS charged them money, even a dime, then they should be liable because they’re a business. What a horrible precedent it would set if a business could do whatever they want, up to and including HURTING PEOPLE, if they just claim it’s their religion.

        The freedom to practice one’s religion stops when that practice involves screwing people over. If you want to keep making the false promise of “curing” homosexuality, go ahead. But don’t make a business of it.

        • Simon

          Sven, I have to admit, I am conflicted. I think these guys are bad guys. It is not easy to come out on their side of this issue, but religious speech doesn’t stop when you enter commerce. Consider this opportunity to pay $30 plus shipping and handling to obtain a “healing rock.”

          I think the promise that these rocks will heal people are frankly ridiculous. But if somebody buys these rocks, and don’t get healed I dont’ think they should be sued for fraud.

          Like I said, I think there may be grounds for several different kinds of torts. But they are purposely not making those arguments. They are attacking peoples’ belief system. I don’t have to embrace that belief system to believe in people’s right to believe, and promote it with out fear of law suits.

          Buy magic rocks to “remove blockages to emotional bonding with others,” or find a same sex cuddle buddy to snuggle the gay away. This all seems absurd to me, but I don’t law suits or government limiting their speech to make these judgments. I figured it out on my own.

          I am sorry these young men suffered at the hands of these people, but they should bring a tort claim and leave the religious speech alone.

          • Sven

            I’m not saying anyone should silence the speech, I’m saying businesses should be liable for what they do. If BP, Enron, or Bernie Madoff said their businesses were religious, would holding them liable for their wrongdoing be an attack on religion?

          • Simon

            If you take away people’s ability to make money based on their beliefs you take away their speech rights.

            For example, lets take this out of the realm of sex and religion. If you said “Supply-side economics are nonsense. The overwhelming majority of economists have debunked this tripe you’re passing off as analysis. You can believe it if you want to-its a free country-but you may not charge people for your bogus lectures about a disproved theory. If you do charge people, we will sue you for fraud, because your ideas are so dumb and backwards.”

            That’s yucky right? You shouldn’t be able to sue people just because they have beliefs you think are wrong or hurtful. Using the government to beat your ideological opponents is bad news.

            Again, this is not a malpractice or tort case, like I think it should be. In a tort case, the focus would be on the harm caused to the defendants through JONAH’s negligence or intentional acts. But this suit isn’t about that.

            This a “fraud” case that is targeted right at their absurd, orange-testicle-wrestling-mom-effigy-hitting-straight-guy-cuddling speech. I don’t have to believe it to fight for their right hold their belief without threat of censorship.

            God bless America!

            Regarding BP, Enron and Bernie, religion doesn’t get them off the hook.

            I think the very sad story of Jim Bakker is a solid illustration. He was a religious person who actually committed fraud. He said, give me money and I’ll give you lifetime membership to a luxury resort. He took the money and didn’t build resort. That’s fraud. He was prosecuted (No different than Bernie). Nobody’s religious speech was limited.

  • WTF, “Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrestle away two oranges – used to represent testicles – from another individual.”

    • Craig

      Don’t knock it till you try it.

  • I’m laughing at the comical irony that JONAH uses a fruity method as part of curing what some might call “fruitiness.” The other irony is that they employ techniques and imagery (male nudity, phallic representations, etc.) that would seem counterintuitive to a program designed to decrease male homosexual arousal. Not sure what their theory of practice is, but it’s all really pretty stupid. You do not “cure” gay-ness any more than you would cure straight-ness.

    I did a quick read of the complaint. I’ll read it in more detail later. But my first thought is that the plaintiffs will not get far.

    • Craig

      Here’s the key: Alan Downing is extremely unattractive in the nude.

  • Frank

    These particular methods are certainly ridiculous but the love of and faith in Christ can transform anyone/anything including sexual compulsions.

    • hahahahahahahaha

      • Frank

        Not sure why you think that Christ is not capable of transforming someone. You only expose yourself by laughing you know. Actually you are probably clueless about that too.

        • Sorry, anonymous “Frank,” I have no idea what you’re talking about.

          I am thus exposed: I laugh at silliness.

        • Likewise, your equating homosexuality with some kind of “sexual compulsion” exposes yourself and your assumptions. That homosexuals need to be transformed (in that regard) at all is highly presumptuous.

          • Now, that is a comment lacking silliness.

          • Frank

            Homosexual behavior is a sin so yes all people engaged in sinful behavior need to be transformed.

          • Frank

            Thank you Rob for proving you have nothing relevant to say on the subject.

          • Real arguments require responses. Ridiculousness requires ridicule.

          • Frank

            You are right that you should be ridiculed but I’ll pass. You do such a good job yourself you don’t need my help.

          • I didn’t try to make any arguments. You are free to ridicule me for ridiculing your ridiculousness.

            If nothing else, at least I found that Nic Cage GIF. That made my day, so, thanks again.

          • But, Frank, just for shits and giggles, go to any non-religious conservative website about homosexuality – from pretty much any source – and you will find several good arguments against your ignorant opinion.

          • And by “non-religious conservative” I don’t mean “non-religious but conservative”…I mean the only people who think there is anything wrong with homosexuality are religious conservatives.

          • Frank

            Why would I take a mans word over Gods word? That’s just foolishness. And there are many non religious people against homosexuality and gay marriage.


            What is Marriage?

            Sherif Girgis
            Princeton University Department of Philosophy

            Robert George
            Princeton University – Department of Politics

            Ryan T. Anderson
            University of Notre Dame Department of Political Science

            November 23, 2012

            Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287, Winter 2010

            In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners.

            Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.


            We have revamped and expanded our argument for a new book, “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,” available now for preorder (see below) and released in December 2012. The book revamps the article’s argument, bolstering and elaborating its positive points for a general audience, answering the most common and serious objections, and sharpening objections for opposing views.

          • Just because “Fox News” uses the word news in its title doesn’t mean it’s journalism.

            Good attempt, though!

          • Frank

            So in other words you cannot intelligently refute. Thanks for letting us know.

          • There are a lot of refutations of that “article” and “book” out there:

            This is no different than “intelligent design,” which tried (past tense) to present itself as science, but was exposed as a fraud.

          • Frank

            Speaking of fraud…. I’ll take the academics credibly over some random bloggers. Plus homosexual behavior is a sin and there is no way to get around that.

            Keep trying though.

          • Curtis

            Heterosexual behavior is a sin too. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Fortunately, there is a way to get around all sin, but it has nothing to do with sex.

          • Frank

            It can be but homosexual behavior is always a sin.

          • Larry Barber

            No, Frank, you will take the academics who agree with you over a random blogger. If you were to take a survey of academics I would give you at least 20 to 1 odds that they would overwhelmingly support gay marriage. So you cherry pick the few academics who support you and then claim that their arguments are superior because they are academics.

          • Frank

            As Christians w should be less concerned to what man says and ultimately concerned at what God says. And Gods Word says homosexual behavior is a sin. No getting around it though many have tried.

          • Curtis

            It is God’s word that love takes place in more places than below the waistline. Sexual behavior, straight or gay, is ultimately irrelevant to salvation. No getting around it.

          • Frank

            That’s not true and you know it. The bible is straightforward that what we do with our bodies matters to our spirituality and faith. To say otherwise is simply ignorant.

          • Last time I checked, the Jesus Himself called divorce and remarriage for reasons other than adultery a sin, which unlike homosexuality, was a violation of the Ten Commandments. St Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says that the ONLY moral options for those who separate from a living spouse are reconciliation or celibacy, yet I have yet to see one Christian group offering healing to those who suffer from the sin of being in adulterous second marriages and guiding them onto the path of sexual holiness in celibacy. I wonder why that is.

            Secondly, most mainstream Biblical scholars believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality revolved around its use in pagan cult prostitution which violated the First and Second Commandment. The concept of homosexuality as an orientation and gay people in ongoing loving relationships didn’t exist in the ancient world, the economics didn’t support it.

  • Thom

    How loving- freakin idiots!

  • Charles

    These folks, JONAH, are BatSh*t Crazy!! …Frank’s simply simply unenlightened.

    • Frank

      Yeah that’s it! :rolleyes!

  • So let me get this straight, a ministry is being sued for offering gays an alternative lifestyle?

    • Frank

      Not just an alternative lifestyle but a better more Godly one. Offering healing and transformation. Of course the methods for this particular organization seem simply ridiculous and unhelpful.

      • Micah

        “Not just an alternative lifestyle but a better more Godly one.” I think saying “better” lifestyle is your opinion and not factual. Homosexuals don’t need to be “healed” or “transformed.”

        • Frank

          Of course they do. Why would anyone want to have sinful, damaging behavior an integral part of their life?

          • Micah

            First you would have to believe that the Bible is true…. and then you would also have to think that homosexuality was a choice. I don’t consider homosexuality to be damaging behavior nor do I consider it a choice. I think it’s no more a choice than you being heterosexual.

            I know WAY more “damaged” folks from Christianity than I do from homosexual friends. So saying “better” lifestyle seems to be a stretch.

          • Being in a gay relationship is hardly sinful or damaging. Not only that, almost everyone who is “offered” this path turns into an ex-ex-gay later (and usually even more damaged that before.)

            If churches want to offer this as some kind of healing, fine, but leave the pretend psychology out of it. It’s not psychology, therapy or based in any science or research.

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