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Current Page: U.S. | Monday, January 04, 2016
Jewish Gay Conversion Group Shuts Down Amid Court Order Forcing Closure

Jewish Gay Conversion Group Shuts Down Amid Court Order Forcing Closure

A young boy waves a rainbow flag while watching the San Francisco gay pride parade two days after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country in San Francisco, California, June 28, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage)

A Jewish group offering therapy for same-sex attraction will be ceasing operations in January as a result of a lawsuit filed against it in New Jersey.

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, also called JONAH International, sent an email to supporters on New Year's Eve announcing the closure.

"The N.J. court delivered its final judgement on Dec. 18, 2015. Under the order, JONAH must permanently cease operations, including providing referrals and operating its website and listserv," read the email.

"That means that our site, www.jonahweb.org, will no longer be available online after mid- January 2016, and neither of us will be permitted to give referrals to strugglers who call or email with requests for help. JONAH is required to dissolve as a corporate entity and liquidate its assets by the middle of May."

The email denounced the decision as a "tragic miscarriage of justice," adding that it "reflects the near triumph of political correctness and the gay activist agenda in the USA."

"Coercive tactics that attempt to shut down choice are antithetical to a country founded in religious tolerance. We believe that this decision continues the erosion of religious freedom now taking place in our country," continued the email.

"Seeking counseling is a very private and personal decision people make and should not be interfered with by government or anyone."

JONAH International practiced a form of conversion therapy or reparative therapy, a type of controversial treatment that claims it can change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

While mainstream American psychiatry does not endorse SOCE therapy, and some states have banned the practice for minors, several groups including JONAH offer it to patients.

In November 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against JONAH on behalf of four men and two parents, charging that the group was guilty of consumer fraud.

The SPLC argued that JONAH violated New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act, specifically the measure regarding "ascertainable loss" regarding the therapy procedure.

JONAH was legally represented in part by the Rancho Santa Fe, California-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.

Last February, State Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled that JONAH could not bring witnesses that considered homosexuality to be a mental illness.

"The overwhelming weight of scientific authority concludes that homosexuality is not a disorder or abnormal. The universal acceptance of that scientific conclusion — save for outliers such as JONAH — requires that any expert opinions to the contrary must be barred," wrote Bariso.

Last June, a jury decided unanimously that JONAH was liable for consumer fraud. While initially planning to appeal, the group ultimately agreed to a settlement that requires them to dissolve.

Regarding the dissolution of JONAH, SPLC Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli claimed in a statement that "JONAH's conversion therapy program harmed countless LGBT people and their families. ... Other conversion therapy providers would be well-advised to examine what happened to JONAH, and to abandon their foolish efforts to make gay people straight."

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