Lawsuit Filed Against Group for its ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ Program

Lawsuit Filed Against Group for its 'Gay Conversion Therapy' Program
Lawsuit Filed Against Group for its 'Gay Conversion Therapy' Program

A lawsuit was filed on Thursday against an organization over their so-called “gay conversion therapy.” Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing charges as much as $10,000 to change the sexual leaning of homosexuals.

Host Carmen Russell-Sluchansky spoke with Jamila Bey to discuss the case and the implications of gay therapy.


But first the question is – can you pray the gay away and if you say you can you get sued for it. A lawsuit was filed today against an organization over their so called “gay conversion therapy”. Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing or JONAH charge as much as $10 000 to change the sexual leaning of homosexuals, at least that’s what they claim they can do.

For more on that I have in the studio Jamila Bay. She is among other things a host of Sex, Politics and Religion hour that you can hear here on Monday evenings at 6 p.m. eastern time.

Jamila, thanks for coming in again.

It is always my pleasure to spend time on your show, Carmen. It brings tears to my eyes not just because I hit myself in the head before we started talking.

I’m sure it didn’t help though.

So, this group JONAH – Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing – that’s not the original name.

First, I just want to point out, when you even told me about this story first, I just assumed it was going to be some real Christian group. But now, it is Jewish folks.

This time the original name of this group was Jews Offering New Alternatives against Homosexuality. So, yes, it is not just the Christians who believe that a higher sprit and enough dedication and hard work can change one’s sexual orientation. Of course every legitimate psychological association, particularly the American Psychiatric Association has rejected being able to use therapy, even therapies considered helpful – talk therapy. You can’t change someone’s sexual orientation through therapy. There is more science coming out saying that really it is something that isn’t granted, is weird. And when you even look at look at other species of mammals – same sex attraction is something that happens.

Exactly on that point, because this is one of the intriguing parts. You think that nobody would know that more, or at least feel that more, really believe it more than homosexuals. I mean are there actually people who are going to them and spending upwards of $10 000 to say I don’t want to have this?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about JONAH. Here is the deal – let’s for a moment assume you are a parent, like one of these two who had filed a suit on behalf of their sons who were minors at the time (17 year old boys at the time) they were signed up for the services. You are a deeply faithful person, you believe that it is a sin, it is wrong, it is to sever yourself from your God to behave in a homosexual way. And to have a child who would do that – it is a spiritual death. You don’t want this, you can’t have this and you want the best for you child.

So, this organization says – we understand you, we are you. Your culture is our culture, we understand your faith. We are going to demand a lot of work out of your boy but if he prays and if you have faith and God enough and pay us a hundred dollars for weekly individual counseling and sixty dollars per session with the group we can heal your boy. This is a spiritual sickness, this is something that you need to trust in us that we can make right. It is a very attractive pitch.

These patients actually in a lot of cases, it is their parents basically saying you are going to do this.

It is, or if you are a person of faith and you believe that you are destined for eternal damnation for your behavior, what you feel like is a moral falling, and these people can help you – you are going to do it. So, some of the activities, I call them activities…

But I just want to clarify a bit one thing – a lot of people involved in the lawsuits, some of the plaintiffs, basically people who actually hired JONAH before say…

Absolutely! Yes, all of them.

They are saying that, they really mad that this didn’t work…

They are mad that didn’t work, they are mad that they were lied to, they are mad that they were really duped.

Sounds like a false advertisement claim.

Which is exactly why it was filed in New Jersey because an individual can file a fraud claim against the corporation there, and JONAH is a corporation. This is a story that we absolutely are going to have to talk about more at length. But I really want to point out the deceptive nature of what JONAH did. One of these plaintiffs, you brought up parents who put their kids, yes, but one of these plaintiffs said he found JONAH, so he could come out to his parents, he said – look, I think I’m a homosexual but there is this group that can change me, I need you to pay them money. And for 18 months he went to individual, he went to group sessions, he did the praying he did their activities, they called it therapy, I’m calling them activities, and it didn’t work.

And then he got suicidal because he knew how much he was trying, he knew that it wasn’t an issue of lack of faith. He just figured he was so depraved and so spiritually broken and such a horrible immoral person and he should just kill himself. He realized enough that that’s not necessarily the case, maybe he should try a different doctor. And then he comes to find out – hey, wait these practices have been rejected, it is not even fair to call them rejected, these practices have never been endorsed by any legitimate medical body. These are people who call themselves life coaches and spiritual coaches and they scurried the law because there are no standards of you call yourself a coach, you know, you can do what you want.

Some of the things that these young boys and young men were forced to do – they removed their clothing and go into a bathhouse so that they could practice being naked with other figures. They have to wrestle away two oranges which were used to represent testicles to prove that they could be manly enough to do a manly activity and come up the victor. One of the plaintiffs in this particular suit was abused as a child and he said that the whole time he was going through these different activities they reminded him very much of the abuse he suffered as a child, which again legitimate psychotherapy would have led one to believe, you know, that’s really similar to a child being small and being forced to do what he doesn’t want to do and you are doing the same thing telling him that God ordains this and it will heal him at the end. These people make millions of dollars from these conversion therapies that never been proven to work.

Unfortunately, when you put science up against faith traditions and religions, what is it? The great philosopher Mark Twain once said “faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” I understand what my book says about this behavior but I’m going to take out my cellphone and use the internet and do some research that happens instantaneously and use the science that is available to me today to maybe challenge what was written thousands of years ago and translated into a number of different languages by numeric peoples. And I don’t want to be rude to anyone’s faith tradition, I say that we humans have come to a point where our knowledge is very great, our science is as great as it’s even been…

And in this case of course you’ve got psychologists coming, organizations…

Medical doctors saying this boy is anxious, he is suppressed, he is suicidal, you are holding him down and dressing up in effigy of his mother and forcing him to beat it until it breaks with tennis racket and screaming obscenities, it does him no help. It causes him greater harm. You can’t do that, it is not working and it makes him feel guilty, it makes him feel anxious and it puts him back into the behavior pattern that he was in before, not necessarily the homosexuality but that self loathing and depressive self-harm-behavior that a number of these young men and older men who’ve gone through this admit came about because these praying the gay-away type programs caused them to feel.

There are people who disagree with me. And the Family Research Council told the CNN today that they do believe that JONAH will prevail, that they do believe that, of course the Family Research Council is a Christian organization headquartered a couple of blocks away here in Washington DC, it is walking distance from our studios, but they…

You should go out and say “Hi” to Tony Perkins.

I did that, he didn’t wave back at me though.


But the point I do want to make is that there are a number of faith groups that say that their God is great enough, that their God can cure homosexuality, the science doesn’t really bear that out. And when you look at the number of relapses and people who say – I tried these programs and it did not work for me. The chips are stacked on a side that says this gay conversion therapy really is a fraud.

You know, the courts don’t typically take into account what one thinks their God can do. It is more likely to look at the reports that the American Psychiatric Association puts out, that kind of thing. Interestingly enough, Southern Poverty Law Center is offering aid in this case.

Yes, the group headed by Morris Dees out of… Which city in Alabama?


Montgomery! You would think that a child that who spent as much time in Alabama as I did would know that. They are filing a lawsuit accusing this JONAH organization of fraud. They filed a suit in New Jersey…

A consumer fraud, I mean basically this kind of really comes down to a consumer fraud. It is not unlike false advertising.


It is interesting, just from the legal perspective because this is not anything to do with religion, this is nothing to do with gay rights per se, I mean if they were charging all these money saying that something is going to work like this and they charge you all these money and all these other experts are just saying – that’s nuts. And you really don’t have any expert supporting this, there is no scientific data supporting it. It is a pretty big case.

Right, it is indeed! And the truth of the matter is – it doesn’t work. I would challenge our listeners, anyone who thinks it does work to say – ok, can you go to a camp, can you go through a therapy that would change your sexual orientation right now to be 180 degrees from what it is? Could you go through training and after a year and a half, let’s say, could it turn me with my particular orientation to someone whose orientation is opposite to what it is? I’m skeptical. I know that’s a shock to hear me say that I’m skeptical, but I’m indeed.

It should be the skeptical part. Once again, that is Jamila Bay. Jamila is host of the Sex, Politics and Religion hour which you can hear on the Due Diligence at 6 p.m. on Mondays. Jamila, thank you so much.

My pleasure.


About Carmen Munir Russell-Sluchansky 360 Articles
Carmen is a multimedia journalist based in Washington, DC whose work has appeared in a variety of outlets including National Geographic, NBC News, the BBC, Asia! Magazine, The China Post, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.