NJ Reparative Group JONAH Forced Clients Into Stripping, Beating Effigies Of Moms, Other Bizarre “Therapies”

On Tuesday, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced what they said was the first-of-its-kind lawsuit against practitioners of reparative therapy.

The suit names members of New Jersey-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH)—including director Arthur Goldberg—as violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by promising to change patients from homosexual to heterosexual.

At a press conference on Tuesday, SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe described just some of the harmful practices utilized by JONAH’s unlicensed counselors:

The defendants engaged in sessions where participants were instructed to remove their clothes in front of significantly older counselors who were also attracted to men.

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

Defendants subjected our clients to ridicule, calling them “faggots” and “gay boys.”

Michael Ferguson, one of the four young men SPLC is representing in the case, recalled his own experiences under JONAH’s care:

I watched as grown men were frenzied into fits of emotional rage against their mothers and encouraged to act out physical violence against their parents, in order to access their so-called ‘true manhood’ and become more heterosexual.

… In another exercise, a man had to break through a human barricade that I was a part of in order to seize two oranges that were meant to symbolize his testicles. He was then frenetically instructed to squeeze the juice from them and drink it and to put the oranges in his pants in order to represent ‘gaining his testicles’ the symbolic absence of them supposedly being the cause of his homosexuality.

Another plaintiff, Chaim Levin (in photo, at dais), described a particularly shameful group session:

“I was forced to recreate a scenario in which I experienced traumatic childhood abuse as a young person. The exact situation was replayed for the entire group, deeply hurtful language was said over and over to me, and no psychological care was given afterward.”

Levin also recalled being made to take off his clothes in front of a counselor:

“Eventually he instructed me to remove all of my clothes in a room alone with him. I told him I was uncomfortable with that and he told me if I really wanted to change this was what I had to do… I didn’t know what else to do so I took off my clothes. But the only feelings I had were trauma and humiliation. My sexual orientation remained the same.”

SPLC’s deputy legal director Christine Sun called conversion therapy “nothing more than junk science that leaves people feeling ashamed of who they are, and believing they need to fix something that isn’t broken.”

The case is groundbreaking because New Jersey has one of the most stringent consumer-protection laws in the country: If the plaintiffs can show they’ve been defrauded, they are entitled to a refund of all fees, restitution for costs incurred (in this case, including corrective legitimate therapy) and attorney fees. Damage awards are also subject to being tripled.

In addition to monetary compensation, SPLC is also seeking an injunction to shut down JONAH for good.

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  • Dawster

    seriously, most of this… sounds like a typical friday night with my ex.

    so i can empathize.

    if conversion therapy and facilitators like JONAH were shut down for good, the world would be a far better place. i wish there was a stronger effort to stop such mental and emotional trauma before anyone else is damaged…

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    So to teach them to love women, they taught them to hate their mothers?

    Something must be changing in the world, because over the last couple of years anytime a woman finds out I take care of my mother, they swoon. Used to be I was viewed as a momma’s boy.

  • NormdePlume

    Don’t get me wrong – I think what JONAH did was awful, but I’m just struck by the fact that those men were so filled with fear and self-loathing that they actually did what they were asked to do.

    So incredibly sad.

  • Taliaferro

    It is sad that someone can be so at odds with himself, so full of self-hatred and shame that he would attempt to change his essential nature with a group such as JONAH. I came out in 1969 when I realized I was gay and that to fight it would be fighting myself my entire life. Now, at 62, I can look back at the decades of self-acceptance and a positive self-image and be glad I had the courage to admit who I was and am. Now 43 years later, I find myself appalled that such groups are still allowed to torment and torture people who are gay. However, it is 2012 and with growing acceptance, I find myself wondering wby some men still are so afraid that they cannot accept their sexuality. However, groups such as JONAH prey upon the weak and unsure among us. I hope they are convicted and forced to shut down.

  • Dawster

    @Taliaferro: *hug* you have no idea how much i appreciate your comment. thanks!

  • mpwaite

    I was in an ex-gay ministry in Texas in the 90’s. While it didn’t “cure” me into some raging butch heterosexual, I did learn a lot of things about myself in the process; things that I wanted to change. I saw God’s heart throughout the experience; we didn’t participate in any demoralizing modes of therapy such as what has been suffered by these men. I did engage in the “Anger against my Mother” therapy, however, it wasn’t a “BEAT THE HELL OUTTA MY MOTHER” type of therapy such is that is represented in rap lyrics… It was more of a confrontation exerices where I basically told my Mother why I was so mad and disappointed in her… I NEVER blamed my Mother or my Father for my sexuality. There were situations in my life where I was disappointed and angry for the way they chose to handle the fact that they knew they had a gay son, however, CLEARLY refused to acknowledge it… “Let’s get Mike a motorcycle or send him to football camp” was the response.. of course I hooked up with other closeted gay boys at these camps.. LOL> I just wanted to say that although I didn’t agree with they Ex-Gay therapy and program, it was a life-changing program in the respect that I seriously identified with immature and selfish sides to my personality that I erradicated as a result of the counseling and self-reflection… I feel for these guys that experienced this ridiculous program and pray that they are able to heal…

  • Dawster

    @mpwaite: that is dangerously close to saying “bottoming isnt so bad” after being raped, but it is good you found some positive aspects to something that is clearly flawed in its inception.

  • jmmartin

    Most excellent! I support the SPLC and in fact became a supporting member upon learning that they have been putting anti-lbgt/queer hate groups on a list, something law enforcement and the courts can monitor to learn, e.g. that Scott Lively, the homophobic, hateful “attorney” once co-wrote a David Bartonesque book about Hitler being a homosexual and extending the argument into a libelous claim that the Holocaust ultimately lies at the feet of all gay people — almost as atrocious a claim as the Blood Libel, which really was a Nazi atrocity. That the SPLC would practice what I like to call “creative lawyering” and come up with the notion of using a state’s deceptive trade practices law to deprive these Jewish reparative “therapists” is astonishing, but it will not be a shoestring lawsuit. The Law Center deserves your Holiday donations. Among the other things they may be expected to prove is that current neuro-biological data suggests gays are born, not made: that, in fact, all persons in the lgbt/queer spectrum of colors, like Joseph’s Coat, were put on earth by “God.” (I do not care whether God is the imaginary entity you may believe in or something like my own. For my own God, I choose DNA.) The upshot, of course, is that lgbt/queer people can hardly be abominations according to a hoary book written five thousand years ago by the warlord of a desert tribe somewhere in the Levant.

  • Bob LaBlah

    @Taliaferro:Thank you for that strait-from-the-heart comment. I am in my early fifties and admitted to myself at the age of thirteen that I was not only gay but also that THERE WASN’T A DAMN THING WRONG WITH ME. I went to school, laughed at the same tv shows (Maude, All in the Family, Good TImes, Sanford and Son), joke albums (Rudy Ray Moore, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Lady Reed…) with all the other hetrosexuals guys who loved teasing me saying I was the only “fag” they allowed around them.
    It was my sanctimonious family who had the problem. I was TOTALLY embarrassed by them and the things they would start insinuating at Thanksgiving dinners but again, fortunately for me, a friends mother always told me that “you do not pick your parents nor do your parents pick their children”. It was because of that lady that I hung around as long as I did after coming out to myself. After a fight at school where I was nearly beaten to a pulp and told by my family that if I weren’t the way I was I said that was the straw that broke the camels back. I had finally heard enough.
    I more or less ran away to California at the age of seventeen, got a job pumping gas that paid enough for me to pay rent and have a little left over, and NEVER looked back no matter how much my sanctimonious family reminded me how embarrrassed they were when church members would ask why I NEVER came home for holidays nor any other reason.
    I really do feel sorry for these people who are going through the pain of not being able to accept reality and feeling not loved by anyone. Rupaul used to always say “if you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else”. That would be a good place for a therapist helping someone with low self esteem to start off with.
    You are who you are. Accept it and get on with your lives and stop throwing away good money to the full of shit. Religion be damned. I wonder did those jews ever mention anything about the Jews who were persecuted under Adolph Hitler and had to wear pink triangles or better yet the five young jewish kids who were murder a few years ago outside a Jewish gay youth center in Tel Aviv. Lord I tell you. The things (shit) people do under the guise of religion.

  • Mark

    I think the Greek approach is much more fun, and much less stressful than forcing young people to cough up their feelings personally. In Greek tragedies, it’s like Ok, GO AHEAD, marry your own mother…see what happens! I hope to direct Oidipous Tyrannos next Fall…..


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