Gay men, law center sue conversion therapy organization

November 27, 2012 2:35:39 PM PST
A controversial type of therapy aimed at turning gay people straight is now at the center of a lawsuit.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH).

"This has been a long journey for me," said Michael Ferguson, a plaintiff.

It's been an emotional journey, they say.

Four gay men are now suing over something called "conversion therapy".

The promise comes from an organization called JONAH, that with the proper therapy in Jersey City that gay men could become straight.

Experts call it a sham and the men's' lawyers describe anything but a "conversion".

"Sessions where participants were instructed to remove their clothes in front of significantly older counselors who were also attracted to men," said Sam Wolfe, of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"I just realized, this is crazy," Ferguson said.

Chaim Levin says he bought into it for a year and a half upon the advice of his Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn.

"I didn't know what to do. I was rejected for who I was and the cure that had been promised had failed," Levin said.

Ferguson says his sessions ranged from abusive to just plain ridiculous.

"A man had to break through a human barricade that I was a part of, and ordered to seize 2 oranges that were meant to symbolize his testicles. He was then frenetically instructed to squeeze the juice from them and drink them and put the oranges in his pants, in order to represent, gaining his testicles," Ferguson said.

JONAH stands for "Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing".

Eyewitness News tried to reach their co-director at home, and at work.

The man who answered said that Arthur Goldberg, who's named in the suit, wasn't there, but on JONAH's website, Goldberg quotes an old rebbe who spoke of homosexuality, saying, "It is a case of healing a malady".

The website runs testimonials; meanwhile experts say it's akin to fixing what isn't broken with long-lasting negative effects.

"Defendants instructed our clients to violently beat effigies of their mothers while screaming at them, blaming their mothers for their gay orientation," Wolfe said.

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