Court Shuts Down Religious Non-Profit for Counseling Homosexuals

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 7, 2016   

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A New Jersey court is shutting down a religious non-profit that offers therapy to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction.

A group that calls itself Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) refers men and women who desire to overcome homosexuality to counselors who can help them. JONAH has been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit since 2012, after four former clients — with the assistance of the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — sued the group for allegedly defrauding them. The lawsuit claims the four young men were falsely promised they'd be cured of same-sex desires, in violation of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act. 

It's the first time any non-profit has ever been sued under the statute, aimed solely at profit-making ventures that defraud its victims and steal their money. In this case, JONAH claims the four clients never paid for counseling.

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Charles LiMandri

Evidence also shows that the plaintiffs themselves may be guilty of dishonesty. According to Charles LiMandri, the attorney representing JONAH, the plaintiffs' testimonies were full of lies. As Austin Ruse reported,

Limandri says the young men, none of whom identified as gay at the time, approached JONAH because they found their personal actions and desires did not comport with their deeply held Jewish faith. Limandri said each of them received treatment, though none of them for the proscribed time recommended by JONAH, and each left satisfied with the treatment received. Only later, when Wayne Besen of the LGBT activist group Truth Wins Out recruited them, did they change their stories and claim harm at the hands of Goldberg and his colleagues.

Nineteen-year-old Benji Ungar, one of the plaintiffs, made contradictory statements on the stand. As a client of JONAH in 2007, he had written on his intake form that he'd had multiple sexual encounters with other men; that he was troubled by his sexual behavior because it went against his Orthodox Jewish faith, the most important thing in his life; and that he'd had a traumatic relationship with his abusive mother. In court, however, Ungar claimed the opposite in all respects: that he'd been a virgin in 2007; that his religion was not important to him; and that he'd had a wonderful relationship with his mother.

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LiMandri has said the case is "a contrived lawsuit put on by gay activists" to punish political opponents, and that it's "not really about little JONAH. It is about closing down all counseling" for people who want to overcome homosexuality — a position deemed less and less politically correct today. The SPLC, for instance, claims in its lawsuit that same-sex desires do not need to be cured at all, and that attempts to do so should be avoided as they are impossible.

Gay conversion therapy was banned in New Jersey in 2013 by Gov. Chris Christie, and only applies to licensed therapists. As JONAH's counselors are unlicensed, the law was never applied to this lawsuit.

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Arthur Goldberg, a founder of JONAH

A jury offered a verdict against JONAH in June, and last December, the judge issued a permanent injunction against the group, ordering it to cease functioning and to liquidate all assets by May. As a result of the ruling, the founders of JONAH have formed a new group called the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA), filing articles of incorporation on December 29. JIFGA is a coalition of Jews, Christians and Muslims who will promote universal ethics based on divine law. 

Homosexuals Anonymous, a group that fosters support for those struggling with unwanted same-sex desires, has expressed outrage at the court decision. In a Wednesday press release, Managing Director Robert Gollwitzer stated,

Let this judgment stand ... as a dark mark against freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the freedom of individual patients' rights to self-determination. Let it also stand as a testimony to the insecurity and insincerity of the gay community that they cannot abide the truth to be known and live in harmony with individual decisions about one's own sexuality.

 

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