Arguments Set for SPLC Lawsuit Against NJ Jewish Gay Therapy Group

A New Jersey Superior Court has set oral arguments for a lawsuit against a religious group that offers the controversial reparative therapy.

The Superior Court of Hudson County decided Thursday that arguments for the Southern Poverty Law Center's suit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) will be held Friday, July 19.

Last November, the SPLC filed suit against JONAH on behalf of six individuals who say that the organization's promise of sexual orientation conversion constituted fraud.

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"This is a case challenging services provided by Defendants purporting to change a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight," reads the suit, a copy of which was provided to The Christian Post by the SPLC. "Plaintiffs bring this case under the New Jersey Fraud Act, which protects consumers from deceptive, false, or fraudulent business practices."

The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, a Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.-based legal organization, is representing JONAH.

In a statement, FCDF President and General Counsel Chuck Limandri denounced the reasoning of the SPLC.

"SPLC is grotesquely misusing consumer fraud laws to try to shut down counseling services to Jews with same-sex attraction, and to intimidate other therapists, ministries and service providers across the country," said Limandri.

"Individuals with same-sex attraction have a right to seek counseling to live their lives as they choose. It is a matter of self-determination."

At the center of the suit is the debate over reparative therapy or "sexual reorientation" therapy.

Proponents of it argue that individuals suffering from unwanted same-sex attraction can be cured of their unwanted desires.

Critics, like the SPLC and every major psychological organization in America, argue that the therapy is pseudoscience and harmful to gay youth and adults.

On its website, the SPLC has a webpage all about their efforts to monitor groups that offer the therapy.

"People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation," reads the webpage in part. "The devastating consequences of conversion therapy are why the Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to ending this practice and defending the rights of individuals harmed by it."

However, Limandri of the FCDF stated that the SPLC's efforts were not advancing rights or acceptance but rather harming another less acknowledged community.

"If SPLC wins this landmark legal case, it will communicate to gays and lesbians seeking to conform their sexual lives to Torah values that they are second-class citizens, without the same right to seek help that other gay people enjoy," said Limandri.

Last year, California passed a bill that banned the therapy for minors, but the bill itself has not taken effect in light of a lawsuit filed by various groups.

The N.J. Superior Court's decision on oral arguments comes a couple weeks after the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill to ban reparative therapy for minors in the state.

Although Governor Chris Christie has expressed opposition to the efficacy of reparative therapy, he has yet to sign the bill into law.

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