Friday, June 26, 2015

Jury Finds "Ex-Gay" Ministry Guilty of Consumer Fraud

Just recently Christopher Doyle, an "ex-gay" who has makes a living peddling the "ex-gay" myth authored an article that appeared in the Christian Post that would have readers to have believed that the lawsuit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) was going down in flames.  Like everything else that comes out of Doyle, the picture he depicted was utterly false and deliberately so.  To the contrary, JONAH lost the case and the jury found that it was guilty of fraud.  The same charge, of course, in reality equally applies to every other "ex-gay" ministry in America.  A piece in details the historic win by the plaintiffs and counsel from the Southern Poverty Law Center.   Here are highlights:
A New Jersey jury on Thursday found a non-profit group that provides gay-to-straight conversion therapy guilty of consumer fraud for promising clients they could overcome their sexual urges by undressing in front of other men, pummeling an effigy of their mothers, and re-enacting traumatic childhood experiences.

In the first case in the nation to put the controversial practice on trial, the jury concluded that Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in Jersey City and life coach Alan Downing to whom JONAH referred patients, "engaged in unconscionable commercial practices" and misrepresented their services.

The verdict requires JONAH and Downing to refund thousands of dollars paid by former clients Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, and parents Jo Bruck and Bella Levin for the individual and group counseling sessions and the "journey into manhood" weekends in the woods. Downing charged $60 to $100 for group and individual sessions but shared 20 percent with JONAH to help defray its administrative costs.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury found Unger was entitled to $17,950; Chaim Levin was entitled to $650; his mother, Bella, $4,000; and Bruck's mother, Jo, $500.

But the victory has broader implications. The national civil rights legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center filed the case to take a stand against conversion therapy — a frequent target of public criticism since the passage of same-sex marriage laws and other LGBT legal protections.
"This is a momentous event in the history of the LGBT rights movement," said David Dinielli, deputy director for the law center and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The jury agreed not only is this based on lies, but it is an unconscionable business practice."

The legal battle is not over, Dinielli said they would be asking the court for an injunction to stop JONAH from operating. They will also seek the payment of their attorneys fees, which is permitted under the consumer fraud act.

"This is something brutal based on lies, and it needs to stop," he said.

James Bromley, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, accused Goldberg of lying to his clients - three orthodox Jews and a Mormon- who were desperate to conform to the expectations of their religious communities to marry and have children. They were lured by Goldberg's false promise of the program's two-thirds success rate, but Bromley reminded jurors Goldberg testified that estimate was based on counselors' opinions. 

He [Bromley] asked the jury to recall the testimony of Carol Bernstein, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, who compared conversion therapy counselors "to amateur surgeons operating on the minds of young gay men."  "You never want to go under the knife with an amateur surgeon," he said.
These "ministries" need to be shut down nationwide  and therapists who engage in the voodoo like practices need to lose their licenses.  Let's hope that this is the first of many such lawsuits.

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