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Judge rules Jewish ex-gay therapy group might be liable for damages

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing could have to pay for the harm inflicted on plaintiffs
SPLC Plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin
Southern Poverty Law Center

An ex-gay therapy group from the US state New Jersey might have to write a check to redo the damage caused to former clients.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. pronounced on 6 June that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) is potentially liable for three times the costs plaintiffs needed to reverse the effects of conversion therapy.

Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Chaim Levin and Sheldon Bruck maintain that part of the counseling JONAH offered included stripping to relive past sexual abuse; they were charged between $60 (40) and $100 (70) an hour.

Their case is supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a US nonprofit whose specialty is fighting hate crimes.

'These self-proclaimed experts inflicted grave damage upon our clients, who believed JONAH’s claims that it could "cure" them of being gay,' David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director, said in a statement.

'These young men were left with guilt, shame and frustration,' Dinielli continued. '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.'

Judge Bariso also dismissed JONAH's motion to limit its liability.

Arthur Goldberg,  the organization's co-founder, is a co-defendant. The group was launched in 1998 by two New Jersey Jewish couples with gay children.

On its website the group says 'homosexuality is a learned behavior and anyone can choose to disengage from their same-sex sexual fantasies, arousals, behavior and identity – if motivated and supported in that process.'

Ex-gay therapy has been discredited by the American Psychological Association.

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