‘Gay Conversion’ Therapists Sued for Fraud


Four gay men and two of their mothers mounted a lawsuit Tuesday charging fraudulent practices by an organization that offers therapies to convert gays into straights, the first such legal action in history.

The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, alleges that the organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, violated Consumer Fraud Act through a “false and empty promise that a person can be cured of being gay,” said Christine Sun, Deputy Legal Director of Southern Poverty Law Center at a Manhattan news conference.

Customers typically pay a minimum of $100 for weekly sessions and another $60 for group counseling, said an SPLC spokesperson.  Treatments allegedly included asking clients to undress and touch themselves.

“Not only is conversion therapy ineffective, but also has the potential to cause serious and life-threatening harm to those who are exposed to it,” said social worker Laura Booker.

“The feelings of confusion, of broken trust and of anger have only been amplified as a result of so-called reparative therapy,” said Michael Ferguson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Ferguson was a student in New York and after confiding in his church leader about his attraction to men, attended a therapy weekend to “help me develop intimate feelings for women.”

“I wanted to live the dream that I inherited from my upbringing of one day marrying a woman and having children with her,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson attended therapy sessions with defendant counselor Alan Downing and described being a part of an “absurd and disturbing” exercise involving a man breaking through a human barricade to seize, squeeze and drink thejuice from two oranges. He was then allegedly instructed to place the oranges in his pants — “the symbolic absence of them supposedly being the cause of his homosexuality.”

Brooklyn resident Chaim Levin and his Orthodox-Jewish family “wastedthousands of dollars and many hours” on counseling sessions with Downing and Arthur Goldberg, defendant in the lawsuit and founder of JONAH.  Levin allegedly was instructed by Downing take off his clothes for an exercise to “embrace his masculinity.”

“They had recreated psychological abuse I had suffered as a child withoutany cure,” said Levin

“The false and empty promise that a person can be cured of being gay,” said Sun, “harms not only individuals who undergo conversion therapy, but also perpetuates stigma against gay men and lesbians that fuels hatred and violence.”

Photo: Chaim Levin, plaintiff in conversion therapy lawsuit.  


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