Center Found 'Guilty' of Fraud for Same-Sex Attraction Therapy
A Jewish counseling center in New Jersey has been found guilty of consumer fraud for offering help to people with unwanted same sex attraction.
The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the center on behalf of four clients, saying they were tricked into believing the center, Jews Offering Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), could relieve them of unwanted sexual orientation.
A judge ruled against the center Thursday and the four clients were awarded $72,000.
Critics of the ruling say this will likely set a dangerous precedent for organizations helping people with unwanted same sex attraction.
"They've already said they will take aim at 70 other Christian and other religious counseling groups who help people with same sex attraction," Maggie Gallagher, chairwoman of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, said.
Gallagher, who's organization represented JONAH, said that the counseling has helped many.
"Some of them are living chaste lives as Christians or as Jews. Some of them are living married lives," she continued. "It's not clear what every single person can do, but everyone can gain control and orient their sexual desires to their higher values. And people with religious identities have the right to do this - no one has the right to interfere."
Defense attorney Charles LiMandr explained that the plantiffs had spoken in positive terms of their time at JONAH. But after they joined activists seeking to shut the center down, they began changing their stories and "making stuff up" about what they were forced to do.
"None of them wanted to identify as gay when they came to JONAH," he contended. "They have a right to seek help and my clients have a right to provide that help."
The center's co-founder, Arthur Goldberg, testified that he believes homosexuality is a disorder caused by emotional wounds occurring in childhood and adolescence. He said it can be cured through methods used by his organization.
"This is a sad day, not just for my clients, but for America," LiMandri said. "Our freedom to choose to live according to biblical values is being restricted by powerful forces, which in this case included a judge who refused to allow highly qualified expert witnesses to testify that change is possible for many people."
The judge will rule later on a request to revoke the company's license.