In 2015, a New Jersey judge ruled that a group called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) was guilty of consumer fraud. They were selling “conversion therapy” — the faith-based scam that claims gay people can magically turn straight — for more than $10,000. By telling potential clients that they had a mental disorder that could be “cured,” they were defrauding the public. The judge also said that JONAH lied when claiming a high success rate since “client outcomes are not tracked and no records of client outcomes are maintained.”
It was a monumental ruling against an organization that actively harmed gay people, and it was memorable because the ruling went after the group’s business ethics — or lack thereof.
Instead of shutting down, however, JONAH quietly rebranded as the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA) and continued promoting conversion therapy.
Now, Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. of the New Jersey Superior Court, the same judge who ruled against JONAH in 2015, has issued another ruling against JIFGA.
This time, they’ve been ordered to shut down for good and pay a heavy fine.
“It’s a deterrent and a warning shot,” Michael Ferguson, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told NBC News. “If you’re practicing conversion therapy, make no mistake that you will be found out and you will be punished. We are not going to tolerate these practices on members of our community any longer, particularly the most vulnerable.”
In a 47-page decision, Bariso claimed JIFGA is a “mere continuation of JONAH.” He called upon the organization to “cease any and all operations within 30 days of the entry of this order,” as well as to shut down its website and dissolve all corporate holdings.
That 2015 settlement included a clause awarding the plaintiffs $3.5 million in legal fees. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center at the time, “The plaintiffs agreed to accept an undisclosed portion of that award, but the defendants will be liable for the full amount if they violate the agreement.”
They violated the agreement. Now they have to pay up.
In a country governed by one of the most anti-gay administrations in history, this is a bit of good news for LGBTQ people. Conversion therapy has been dismissed as unethical and ineffective by every reputable doctor and scientist because we now understand that homosexuality can’t be cured — and it isn’t something that needs “curing” in the first place.
Rulings like these will hopefully frighten copycats from attempting the methods on their own.
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