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On Tuesday, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a Jersey City-based conversion therapy that supposedly claims it can turn gay people straight, was slapped with a first-of-its-kind lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center and four former patients alleging they were defrauded.  Well, today JONAH announced that it's going to keep going as before.

JONAH co-director Arthur Goldberg said the position that people's sexual orientation can be changed by therapy is not contradicted by the latest statements from the American Psychiatric Association, but he did not give any examples.

"We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist those with unwanted same-sex attractions," Goldberg said in a statement to CNN Thursday. "There are thousands of people who have shed their unwanted same-sex attractions, not only through our programs, but also through other similar programs."

In a statement, JONAH calls the suit groundless and a threat to free speech.  Goldberg himself doubled down on this when he made the rounds of religious right talk radio today.  On AFA Today, Goldberg claimed that suing him is the same as suing Weight Watchers for not losing weight through its program.

However, that comparison doesn't hold water when you look at some of the shocking things that the four plaintiffs say went on at JONAH sessions.  Among them:

The conversion therapy techniques described in the suit included having them strip naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimate holding of 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."
It gets even worse--read the complaint here if you have a strong enough stomach.  And these guys have the nerve to say that this is a First Amendment issue?  I find it hard to believe any fair-minded person, regardless of where they stand on gay rights, would find these practices acceptable.

Among some of the more chilling revelations:

  • One of the plaintiffs, Chaim Levin, was told to strip naked in front of counselor Alan Downing, then to touch his penis and buttocks.
  • Another plaintiff, Benjamin Unger, was told to beat an effigy of his mother with a tennis racket and scream at it.  Supposedly, his mother was responsible for making him gay.
  • Another plaintiff, Sheldon Bruck, was told that by reliving and magnifying hurtful experiences from his past, he'd become straight.  He was also told that he became gay as a result of his mother being too close to him.  Bruck was so traumatized by this "therapy" that he seriously thought about suicide.

If I'm the SPLC and the plaintiffs, after reading this I'm seriously thinking about seeking an injunction.  I'm no lawyer, but there's enough evidence of potentially irreparable harm if this is allowed to go on that it wouldn't be out of line for a judge to rein them in.

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