By Dawn Cranfield
JONAH Conversion Therapy Lawsuit Filed – Four Clients Claim they were not Cured of Homosexuality
In a landmark case, four former JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) clients are the first to hold conversion therapists accountable. The four men were all teenagers when they were taken to JONAH’s offices for conversion therapy to cure them of their unwanted homosexual feelings.
The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) an Alabama-based civil rights group, is providing legal aid to the plaintiffs; is on behalf of plaintiffs Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, Benjamin Unger and Michael Ferguson. All four of the complainants were in their teens and taken to the center by their parents.
Conversion therapy is expensive, cites the lawsuit, “can cost up to $10,000 a year, can put patients at risk of ‘depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior,’ while giving them no benefits.” (cnn.com)
The lawsuit continues with a list of accusations more reminiscent of a poorly made 1970’s Afterschool Special than of therapy in the 21st century.
There are charges of stripping naked in group sessions, cuddling another man, violently beating an effigy of one’s mother, a locker room scenario while being mocked and called “homo” and “faggot”, going to bath house, and standing in front of a mirror fully naked.
Some might say these methods are simply unconventional; however, they did not work. They boys all left the program feeling traumatized, abused, and frankly, like they were defrauded. “I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation, but instead I was subjected to terrible abuse that mirrored the traumatic assault that I experienced as a young person,” Levin said at a news conference Tuesday. “What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many hours on this scam.”
JONAH, and other conversion therapists, believes homosexuality is a learned behavioral trait and can, therefore, be changed through treatment. A posting on JONAH’s website goes on to explain they believe “anyone can choose to disengage from their same-sex sexual fantasies, arousals, behavior and identity – if motivated and supported in that process. We also believe that with appropriate assistance, same-sex attractions can be reduced or eliminated followed by the subsequent development of one’s innate opposite-sex attractions.” (jonahweb.org)
Last October, California was the first state to ban conversion therapy for anybody under the age of 18. “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” Gov. Jerry Brown when he signed the bill. (nytimes.com) The law is slated to go into effect January 1; however, some conservative religious leaders and mental health workers are already opposing the ban believing conversion therapy works.
The American Psychological Association (APA) does not consider homosexuality a mental illness, so how does JONAH think they can “cure” somebody of being who or what they are? Does this mean if I took my cat there, but I really wanted a dog, they could teach him to play fetch?
On JONAH’s website, they have six pages of links to letters and notes from “satisfied” clients; it did not miss my eye that most of them were from parents and spouses. It could be maybe the subject of the letter simply got tired of trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations or fantasy version of them, so they are hiding deeper in the closet.
I think Sigmund Freud said it best in a letter to a mother about her homosexual son, “Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too….” (psychology.ucdavis)