NEW JERSEY: SPLC’s Fraud Suit Against “Ex-Gay” Group Begins This Week

Via the SPLC:

Jury selection is underway in the SPLC’s landmark consumer fraud case against a New Jersey provider of conversion therapy, which purports to turn gay people straight. Opening arguments in the Superior Court of New Jersey are expected to begin on either Tuesday, June 2 or Wednesday, June 3. The SPLC filed the suit – Michael Ferguson, et al., v. JONAH – in 2012 against conversion therapy provider JONAH for deceptive practices that lured plaintiffs into the expensive, harmful therapy. The case, brought under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, is the first of its kind nationally. “This case is about exposing the lie that LGBT people are mentally ill and that they need to be cured,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “Groups like JONAH should not be allowed to use bogus therapy, based on junk science, to scam LGBT people and their families out of thousands of dollars.”

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According to the complaint filed at the case’s inception, customers of JONAH’s services typically paid a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions, with some paying as much as $10,000 a year for the services. The lawsuit describes sessions in which unlicensed therapists ordered them to strip naked and touch their genitals while saying negative things about themselves in front of a mirror, group exercises involving the reenactment of childhood sexual abuse and the use of homophobic slurs while the plaintiffs tried to grab a pair of oranges meant to symbolize testicles.

“Stuck in the past”: According to every mainstream mental health authority in the United States, JONAH’s practices fall so far outside the mainstream as to be unethical, even dangerous. “It’s unethical for counselors to be involved in reparative therapy,” David Kaplan, chief professional officer and former president of the American Counseling Association, told Mic. “It’s not a mental health intervention — it’s a religious practice.”

Kaplan is such an outspoken critic of conversion therapy that he dislikes even using the word “therapy” to describe the practice. “A lot of us refer to it as ‘sexual orientation change efforts.’ ‘Therapy’ connotes a mental health intervention. This is not a mental health intervention. A mental health intervention relates to the diagnosis and treatment of a mental disorder. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. There’s nothing to fix, there’s nothing to repair, there’s nothing to convert.”

Former NOM chairman Maggie Gallagher heads the legal group defending JONAH. Yesterday Gallagher told CBN that “it will be fun to beat the Southern Poverty Law Center.”