The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against ex-gay group JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), accusing it of consumer fraud for peddling a “cure” for homosexuality. The complaint features four young men and two of their parents as plaintiffs, including Chaim Levin, who has been very vocal about how the Orthodox Jewish community has mistreated him for being gay. The men and their families argue that JONAH lured them into paying for counseling with deceptive practices. JONAH relies on ex-gay professional group NARTH, specifically the repudiated techniques of Joseph Nicolosi.
The complaint outlines some of the bizarre treatment the men were subjected to in sessions with JONAH counselor Alan Downing and others:
- remove all clothing during both individual and group therapy sessions including an instruction to Levin to hold his penis in front of Defendant Downing,
- cuddle and intimately hold others of the same-sex including between young clients and older counselors,
- violently beat an effigy of the client’s mother with a tennis racket,
- go to the gym more as well as bath houses in order to be nude with father figures, and
- be subjected to ridicule as “faggots” and “homos” in mock locker room and gym class scenarios.
The men were also encouraged to replicate personal trauma, such as reenacting scenes of childhood sexual abuse. Another JONAH counselor instructed one of the men to snap himself on the wrist with a rubber band every time he felt attracted to a man. JONAH claimed that “gay people are all generally lonely, suicidal, and have or will contract HIV/AIDS.”
The suit seeks a revocation of JONAH’s business license and a permanent injunction against all JONAH staff from further offering ex-gay therapy through a trial by jury. In addition to achieving justice for these young men, this suit will hopefully help other ex-gay survivors step forward to challenge the harmful ministries plaguing young people across the country.