The Rabbinical Council of America, which represents 1000 Orthodox Rabbis, has released a statement distancing itself from the Jewish ex-gay ministry JONAH. Former JONAH patients filed suit this week accusing JONAH of “consumer fraud” for marketing the promise of changing their sexual orientation and instead of subjecting them to humiliating and shaming practices. RCA wants a letter it once printed removed from JONAH’s website:
As rabbis trained in Jewish law and values, we base our religious positions regarding medical matters on the best research and advice of experts and scholars in those areas, along with concern for the religious, emotional, and physical welfare of those impacted by our decisions. Our responsibility is to apply halakhic (Jewish legal) values to those opinions. [...]
Despite numerous attempts by the RCA to have mention of that original letter removed from the JONAH website, our calls, letters, and emails remain unanswered… We want it taken down. JONAH said it was a letter of support, but if you read the letter it is not. They took an informational statement and reprinted it, and the use of that as an endorsement is an error.
Though RCA points out that numerous Orthodox leaders have rescinded their support for ex-gay therapy, the letter in question does in fact read as supportive, encouraging rabbis to refer individuals from their congregation to JONAH:
Rabbis may refer any individuals within their congregations who are dealing with unwanted same sex attractions or any families who have a member thereof facing such an issue. Please contact them if you need referrals for therapists who specialize in working with this population or for programs that may be of assistance. JONAH’s numerous support groups may be of value to congregants, either for those struggling with the issue and/or for their families.
Rather than worry about a letter, RCA might consider simply making a clear condemnation of ex-gay therapy. This may be less likely, because the Orthodox community has traditionally been an unwelcoming place for LGBT people, Chaim Levin, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against JONAH, has frequently pointed out.