After just three hours of deliberation, a New Jersey jury has delivered a unanimous verdict that a Jewish group peddling so-called conversion therapy violated the state’s consumer fraud protection laws in claiming it could “cure” clients of being LGBT.
The verdict concludes that New Jersey–based nonprofit Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Protection Act by marketing “conversion therapy” that has been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization in the country, notes the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The lawsuit was filed by the SPLC on behalf of three young men and two mothers subjected to the discredited therapy that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It was filed last year, after New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban the unscientific practice when used by licensed therapists on minors the year before. Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the ban on ex-gay therapy
“This verdict is a monumental moment in the movement to ensure the rights and acceptance of LGBT people in America,” said a statement from David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the SPLC and lead attorney in the case. “Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie — that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work and can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.”
Testimony in the trial, which was presided over by Hudson Superior Court Judge Peter D. Barsio, Jr., demonstrated that JONAH counselors used abusive, discredited tactics to shame and defraud their clients, according to SPLC:
“According to testimony at the trial, the defendants’ counselors or their associates instructed young men to undress and stand naked in a circle with them; encouraged clients to undress in front of a mirror and touch their genitals while a counselor was present in a closed-door session; and organized group activities for clients to reenact past abuse and take part in violent role-play exercises. Male counselors also engaged and advocated ‘healthy touch’ with young men, including cuddling sessions lasting nearly an hour.”