3 Feb 2011

UK psychotherapist faces discipline hearing for using discredited Christian based homosexual conversion therapy

The Telegraph - UK January 16, 2011

The therapist who claims she can help gay men go straight

A psychotherapist who tried to convert a gay man to become heterosexual faces being struck off at a landmark disciplinary hearing this week.

By Robert Mendick | Telegraph Chief reporter

The case will expose the growing use of hugely controversial therapies, from the United States, which attempt to make homosexual men heterosexual.

The therapy has been described by the leading professional psychotherapy body as “absurd”, while the Royal College of Psychiatrists said “so-called treatments of homosexuality” allow prejudice to flourish.

A small group of counsellors believe all men are born heterosexual but that some choose a homosexual lifestyle which can then be changed through counselling.

Lesley Pilkington, 60, a psychotherapist for 20 years, faces being stripped of her accreditation to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) after treating a patient who had told her he wanted to be “cured” of his homosexuality.

The patient was in fact a prominent homosexual rights campaigner and journalist, who secretly recorded two sessions with Mrs Pilkington, a devout Christian, before reporting her to the BACP.

Mrs Pilkington says her method of therapy – Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) – is legitimate and effective. The therapy is practised by a handful of psychotherapists in Britain.

Mrs Pilkington, whose 29-year-old son is homosexual, said she was motivated by a desire to help others. “He [my son] is heterosexual. He just has a homosexual problem,” she said last week.

Mrs Pilkington has accused Patrick Strudwick, the award-winning journalist who secretly taped her, of entrapment. On the tape, Mr Strudwick asks Mrs Pilkington if she views homosexuality as “a mental illness, an addiction or an antireligious phenomenon”. She replies: “It is all of that.”

Mr Strudwick told The Sunday Telegraph: “Entering into therapy with somebody who thinks I am sick … is the singularly most chilling experience of my life.”

He added: “If a black person goes to a GP and says I want skin bleaching treatment, that does not put the onus on the practitioner to deliver the demands of the patient. It puts the onus on the health care practitioner to behave responsibly.”

Mr Strudwick approached Mrs Pilkington at a largely Christian conference — run by the US organisation The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality — where he said he was unhappy with his homosexual lifestyle and that he “wanted to leave it”. He then requested “treatment for his same-sex attraction”.

In May 2009, Mr Strudwick attended a therapy session at Mrs Pilkington’s private practice, based at her home in Chorleywood, Herts, and recorded the session on a tape machine strapped to his stomach.

In the disciplinary letter sent to Mrs Pilkington, she is accused by BACP of “praying to God to heal him [Strudwick] of his homosexuality”. She is also accused of having an “agenda that homosexuality is wrong and that gay people can change and that you allegedly attempted to inflict these views on him”.

Mrs Pilkington told The Sunday Telegraph: “He told me he was looking for a treatment for being gay. He said he was depressed and unhappy and would I give him some therapy.

“I told him I only work using a Christian biblical framework and he said that was exactly what he wanted.”

She estimates that in the past decade she has offered the SOCE method to about one patient a year, lasting typically about a year.

“We don’t use the word 'cure’ because it makes it [homosexuality] sound like a disease. We are helping people move out of that lifestyle because they are depressed and unhappy.

“We say everybody is heterosexual but some people have a homosexual problem. Nobody is born gay. It is environmental; it is in the upbringing.”

The SOCE method involves behavioural, psychoanalytical and religious techniques. Homosexual men are sent on weekends away with heterosexual men to “encourage their masculinity” and “in time to develop healthy relationships with women”, said Mrs Pilkington.

She said she became involved “in this lifestyle treatment” because of her son. “I am not in this because I am judging people. I am in it because I understand what the issues are.

“I have been able to help my son. We have gone through a process in my family. I want to help others who are in a similar place.

“[My son] is still gay ... we are developing a relationship that was quite difficult for many years but is now coming back in a very nice way. I am confident he will come through this and he will resolve his issues and that he will change.”

Her legal defence is being funded by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which has instructed Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister, to fight the case.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the director of the CLC, said: “It is shocking that Lesley was targeted, lied to and misrepresented by this homosexual activist and even worse that her professional body consider her actions worthy of investigation.

“Therapy should remain freely available for those who wish to change their homosexual behaviour.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a policy statement last year condemning conversion therapies. It stated: “There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be exchanged. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

Philip Hodson, a fellow of the BACP, said: “[BACP] is dedicated to social diversity, equality and inclusivity of treatment without sexual discrimination or judgmentalism of any kind, and it would be absurd to attempt to alter such fundamental aspects of personal identity as sexual orientation by counselling.

This article was found at:



Secular News Daily - January 17, 2011

Biblically inspired gay conversion ‘therapy’ is objectionable and wrong

by British Humanist Association

Reports of a Christian registered psychotherapist using ‘Sexual Orientation Change Efforts’ have been met with alarm by the British Humanist Association (BHA). Mrs Lesley Pilkington faces a disciplinary hearing by the British Association of Psychology and Counselling this week after being reported for trying to ‘convert’ a gay man to being heterosexual.

Mrs Pilkington is reported as saying she uses a biblical framework in an attempt to alter the sexual orientation of patients, believing that ‘everybody is heterosexual but some people have a homosexual problem’. When questioned by the undercover journalist Patrick Strudwick whether homosexuality was ‘a mental illness, an addiction or an anti-religious phenomenon’ Mrs Pilkington is reported to have replied ‘It is all of that’.

Mrs Pilkington’s is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre which ‘exists to promote Christian Truth in the public arena and to protect the freedom of Bible believing Christians’. The Christian Legal Centre has supported a number of cases of alleged unfair dismissal on religious grounds. Recent cases include those of Duke Amachree, Gary MacFarlane and Lillian Ladele, all of whom lost their cases and were not found to be victims of unlawful religious discrimination.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs commented: ‘The notion that homosexuality is a problem that may be ‘cured’ is profoundly objectionable and wrong. It is nothing short of brutal that a therapist would attempt to change a patient’s sexual orientation.

‘It is vital that unsubstantiated and potentially harmful methods cannot be allowed to masquerade as a legitimate practice, and where, regrettably, ‘conversion therapy’ continues to exist, it is not subsidised by public funds. We are pleased that Royal College of Psychiatrists has condemned this practice, and that this case is currently under investigation.’


Read reports on the investigation: Telegraph, Pink News

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has condemned conversion therapies, download their position paper HERE.

Read Patrick Strudwick’s 2010 article on gay-to-straight conversion

Related articles:
British Medical Association labels gay conversion therapy harmful, discredited
Telling right from wrong – unreligiously
Glenn Beck's paranoid thriller, "The Overton Window"
Glenn Beck’s The Overton Window: The Movie? Sure

British Humanist Association The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity supporting and representing non-religious people who seek to lead ethical lives without supernatural or superstitious beliefs. Committed to human rights, democracy, equality and mutual respect, the BHA works for an open and inclusive society with freedom of belief and speech, and for an end to the privileged position of religion – the established church in particular – in law, education, broadcasting and wherever else it occurs. Visit us at http://www.humanism.org.uk/

This article was found at:



Who is the Real Anti-Christian: the Atheist or the Fundamentalist Christian?

Religiously inspired disdain and hatred of gay people leads to bullying and death of vulnerable youth

Ex-gay therapy is child abuse and those who practice it have blood on their hands

Inside look at abusive Teen Challenge program run by fundamentalist Assemblies of God that claims to cure homosexuality

Behind the Walls: The Teen Challenge You Won't See

Teen Challenge--an Assemblies of God-run "kiddie boot camp" chain

"I hope that by educating people that we can stop kids from living with longterm scars"

Founder of abusive Teen Challenge ministry predicts imminent 'earth shattering calamity'

Third Wave 'Spiritual Warfare' movement indoctrinating young children to do battle for the Lord

'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy

Baptist pastor sued by four men for sex abuse when they were teens preaches that homosexuals deserve death

New website tracks clergy abuse in Church of God in Christ, but is run by pastor who abuses gay christians

Connecticut Church Posts Exorcism of Gay Teen on Youtube

Fundamentalist "Truth Academy" indoctrinating teens to fear and fight homosexuals as a threat to religious freedom

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls

Massachusetts Catholic school officials rescind admission of 8 year old after learning his parents are lesbians

As one bishop blames Jews for current criticisms of Catholic church, another blames homosexuality for pedophile priests

UK bishops denounce Cardinal for linking clergy sex crimes to homosexuality, Vatican out of touch with society

Belgium's Catholic primate faces demands to step down after controversial remarks on pedophile priests and AIDS

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

Brazilian bishops prepare anti-abuse guidelines, Archbishop says teens are "spontaneously homosexual" & "society is pedophile"

Bishop of Tenerife blames child abuse on the children

President of British Humanist Association: sex and death lie at the poisoned heart of religion


  1. Former Ex-Gay Ministry Leader Comes Out, Recants Previous Teachings

    by Zach Ford Think Progress October 11, 2011

    Love in Action (LIA) is one of the largest and oldest ex-gay ministries in existence, founded in 1973, the same year the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. John Smid resigned as the group’s executive director in 2008, and since then has slowly beenrethinking his understandings of sexuality and his beliefs about homosexuality. In a new blog post last week, Smid has shown just how far he has come, acknowledging his own homosexuality (despite his loving marriage to his wife) and the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed. Here are some of the key confessions Smid makes:

    NO ONE CHANGES: “One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable… I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation.Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”

    NOT JUST BEHAVIOR: “I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective. Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.”

    GAYS CAN BE CHRISTIAN: “I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.”

    I AM HOMOSEXUAL: ”I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman. My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual. I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement. Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.”


    Hopefully, testimonies like Smid’s will help others open their eyes to the experience of LGBT people beyond what they’ve convinced themselves is “moral” or “best for society.”

    read the full comment with hyperlinks at:


  2. End of the Ex-Gay Movement?

    by Michelle Goldberg Daily Beast Oct. 13, 2011

    Last week, John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, acknowledged on his blog that, contrary to the claims of the movement he represented for decades, gay people cannot become straight. “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” he wrote. He himself certainly has not. “I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman,” he explained. He loves his wife and has no plans to leave her, but wrote, “this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.”

    Smid, who resigned from Love in Action in 2008, was just the latest ex-gay luminary to leave the movement, either voluntarily or in a cloud of scandal. His break with ex-gay orthodoxy is a sign that, even in the evangelical world, the notion that sexual orientation can be altered is increasingly crumbling in the face of reality. Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.

    Though he didn’t realize it at the time, Smid’s journey away from the ex-gay movement began in 2005. That’s when 16-year-old Zach Stark posted on MySpace that his parents were forcing him into Love In Action’s boot camp-style residential rehab program in Memphis, setting off a nationwide uproar. The program cut people off from their old lives—the rulebook forbid “reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind,” and even keeping a private journal was verboten. Time spent in the bathroom was monitored to prevent masturbation. Hoping to reach Stark in his isolation, protesters stood outside throughout much of the teenager’s eight-week stay.

    One of them, Morgan Jon Fox, eventually made a documentary about the confrontation, This Is What Love in Action Looks Like. Smid agreed to let Fox interview him, and their meeting had a deep, lasting impact.


    He also published an apology on his website, inviting those who’ve been through Love in Action to contact him. “If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize with the hope that we can both be released from the bondage of unforgiveness,” he wrote.

    Still, some who feel victimized by his organization say that Smid’s apology hasn’t gone far enough. “I don’t think he yet understands quite the damage and the harm he has done,” says Peterson Toscano, who spent two years in Smid’s program as an adult and later created a one-man show about it, “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo’ Halfway House.” “It was a very destructive process mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually—all across the board.” Toscano describes an incident when Smid, responding to a young man of 19 or 20 who wanted to leave the program, staged a mock funeral. The would-be defector had to lie still on a table while the other participants “talked about how terrible it was that he didn’t stick with God, and now look where he is, he’s dead because he left,” says Toscano.

    read the full article at:


  3. Psychiatrist Repudiates Infamous Ex-Gay Study

    By Evelyn Schlatter, Hatewatch | Southern Poverty Law Center April 11, 2012

    Retired psychiatrist and Columbia University professor Robert Spitzer has repudiated his own much-criticized 2001 study that has been used for years by anti-gay activists to buttress their claims that gay men and lesbians can be “cured” of their homosexuality through therapy.

    In the controversial study, Spitzer claimed that some “highly motivated” LGBT people could become straight. His repudiation [1] came in an article about the fringe “ex-gay” movement in the American Prospect. In an interview, Spitzer asked the author, Gabriel Arana, to print a retraction of the 2001 study so that he “wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”

    Since its publication, the study has been one of the major weapons wielded by anti-gay groups, which frequently cite it as “proof” that LGBT people choose to be gay and can thus change their sexual orientation. At the heart of this argument is the belief that homosexuality is an unnatural deviation from normal sexual development, a form of mental disorder.

    The ex-gay movement, according to Arana, “has relied on the Spitzer study as the single piece of objective evidence that therapy can work.”

    Ironically, Spitzer, who is now 80, was one of the psychiatrists who pushed the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, a step the organization took in 1973. His 2001 study came as a shock and disappointment to many, and it received a storm of criticism over its suspect methodology and design.

    Participants had been referred to Spitzer by ex-gay therapy practitioner groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH [2]) and Exodus International [3]. Their claims were self-reported, and Spitzer did not compare participants to a control group. Yesterday, Spitzer told Warren Throckmorton [4], a psychology professor at Grove City College, that he “has regret for what he now considers to be errant interpretations” of study participants’ reports. He also said that he had “second thoughts” about the study and now believes that “his conclusions don’t hold water.”

    “I actually had great difficulty finding participants,” Spitzer told Arana in the American Prospect. “In all the years of doing ex-gay therapy, you’d think [Joseph] Nicolosi would have been able to provide more success stories. He only sent me nine patients.” (Nicolosi is a clinical psychologist who practiced ex-gay therapy and helped found NARTH.)

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  4. Ex-gay therapy, also known as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, has been widely discredited by the scientific community. Most strikingly, in 2006, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” The APA added, “Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

    Since his study’s publication, Spitzer has tried to make it clear [5] that he didn’t want it used to justify discrimination against the LGBT community, and he emphasized that he did not think that most LGBT people could become heterosexual. Nevertheless, the study became a major part of the anti-gay movement’s arsenal, with claims that here, at last, was “proof” that “all” gay people could become straight through prayer or therapy. Spitzer attempted to point out over the years that such change was either highly unlikely or that anti-gay organizations had misused his research.

    It’s not the first time anti-gay groups have used suspect studies or misused legitimate ones to further anti-LGBT sentiment.

    In January, Seton Hall professor Theodora Sirota issued a statement [6] taking NARTH’s Rick Fitzgibbons to task for using one of her studies to oppose adoption by same-sex couples. Sirota said that no conclusions about LGBT parents or the “fitness” of LGBT parents can be drawn from her findings. Fitzgibbons has yet to correct his own article or remove the Sirota citation from it

    Several other legitimate researchers [7] have publicly asked anti-gay organizations stop distorting their research. Now, with Spitzer’s on-the-record retraction, it remains to be seen whether they will stop using his 2001 study to justify their claims.

    Don’t hold your breath.


  5. Citation links from comment above:

    [1] repudiation: http://prospect.org/article/my-so-called-ex-gay-life

    [2] NARTH: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/queer-science

    [3] Exodus International: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2007/winter/straight-like-me

    [4] Spitzer told Warren Throckmorton: http://wthrockmorton.com/2012/04/11/robert-spitzer-retracts-2001-ex-gay-study/

    [5] make it clear: http://www.truthwinsout.org/in-dr-robert-spitzers-own-words/

    [6] Theodora Sirota issued a statement: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/01/04/40296

    [7] Several other legitimate researchers: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alvin-mcewen/rick-fitzgibbons-theodora-sirota_b_1185223.html

    [8] : http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/12/christian-anti-gay-ads-buses

  6. Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign by Boris Johnson

    by Robert Booth, Hélène Mulholland and Patrick Strudwick The Guardian UK April 12, 2012

    The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, intervened to prevent a Christian advertising campaign from promoting the idea that gay people can be converted to heterosexuality.

    Just days before the posters were due to appear on buses in the capital, Johnson ordered his transport chiefs to pull the adverts booked by two conservative Anglican groups following outrage among gay campaigners and politicians saying that they were homophobic. The adverts were booked on behalf of the Core Issues Trust whose leader, Mike Davidson, believes "homoerotic behaviour is sinful".

    His charity funds "reparative therapy" for gay Christians, which it claims can "develop their heterosexual potential". The campaign was also backed by Anglican Mainstream, a worldwide orthodox Anglican group whose supporters have equated homosexuality with alcoholism. The advert was due to say: "Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!"

    Johnson, who contacted the Guardian to announce he was stopping the adverts within two hours of their contents becoming public, said: "London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses."

    His main rival in next month's mayoral election, Ken Livingstone, said Johnson should never have allowed the adverts to be booked. "London is going backwards under a Tory leadership that should have made these advertisements impossible.

    "They promote a falsehood, the homophobic idea of 'therapy' to change the sexual orientation of lesbians and gay men."

    The Christian groups insisted the advert had been cleared with Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by the mayor. Davidson said: "I didn't realise censorship was in place. We went through the correct channels and we were encouraged by the bus company to go through their procedures. They okayed it and now it has been pulled."

    CBS Outdoor, the media company that sells the bus advertising sites, said the ad had been passed for display by the Committee of Advertising Practice. It is understood TfL was due to make around £10,000 for allowing the adverts to run on about two dozen buses across five routes.

    The campaign was an explicit attempt to hit back at the gay rights group Stonewall, which as part of its lobbying for the extension of marriage to gay couples is running its own bus adverts saying: "Some people are gay. Get over it." The Christian groups used the same black, red and white colour scheme as Stonewall and in a statement announcing the campaign accused it of promoting the "false idea that there is indisputable scientific evidence that people are born gay".

    The gay ex-vicar, Labour MP and former minister Chris Bryant, said the advert was cruel for promoting the idea that you could become "ex-gay" and he said it would particularly hurt teenagers struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

    "The emotional damage that is done to the individuals who try to suppress their sexuality, the women they marry and the children they might have is immeasurable," he said. "Most sane Christians believe that homosexuality is not a lifestyle or a choice but is a fact to be discovered or not. The pretence that homosexuality is something you can be weaned off in some way is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of creation."

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  7. continued from previous comment:

    Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said the adverts were "clearly homophobic" and added: "The only reason some gay people might want to stop being gay is because of the prejudice of the people who are publishing the ad.

    "The promotion of this voodoo therapy is hugely irresponsible given the damage that it appears to do to some people."

    Both men said the advert should not be banned, however, because they believed in freedom of speech.

    Attempts to "treat" or alter sexual orientation have been strongly condemned by leading medical organisations. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that "so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish" and concluded in 2010: "There is no sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed."

    The British Medical Association has also attacked "conversion therapy", a related field to reparation therapy, passing a motion asserting that it is "discredited and harmful to those 'treated' ".

    The Rev Lynda Rose, a spokesperson for the UK branch of Anglican Mainstream, said her group adhered to scripture that all fornication outside marriage is prohibited and believed that homosexuals were "not being fully the people God intended us to be". She said therapies endorsed by Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues were not coercive and were appropriate for people who wanted to change their sexual attractions, for example if they were married and worried about the impact of a "gay lifestyle" on their children.

    The decision to pull the adverts is being seen as a potential boost for conservative Christian organisations attempting to become more politically active in the UK. "Banning this is usually a fairly good way to encourage a sense that people are being marginalised and persecuted," said Simon Barrow, co-founder of the Ekklesia thinktank which has tracked the progress of what it calls aggressive conservative Christianity. "It could be part of a developing tactic to draw attention to themselves and a way of using victimhood to galvanise sympathy and support."

    Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate, said: "From personal experience as a gay Christian, I can tell you that it's much better to be out than in. We should be celebrating the diversity for which London is known, not denigrating it.

    Revelations about the adverts came as Johnson was due to appear at a hustings organised by Stonewall on Saturday.


  8. Psychiatrist who championed gay cure admits he was wrong

    by Paul Harris in New York, The Guardian May 19, 2012

    One of the most influential figures in modern psychiatry has apologised to America's gays for a scientific study which supported attempts to "cure" people of their homosexuality.

    The survey, published in 2001, looked at "reparative therapy" and was hailed by religious and social conservatives in America as proof that gay people could successfully become straight if they were motivated to do so.

    But Dr Robert Spitzer has now apologised in the same academic journal that published his original study, calling it "fatally flawed". "I believe I owe the gay community an apology," his letter said. "I also apologise to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works."

    Spitzer's letter, which was leaked online before its publication in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, is sure to cause delight among gay civil rights groups and stir up anger among social conservatives, who have used the study to combat the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal part of human society.

    Reparative therapy is popular among Christian conservative groups, which run clinics and therapy sessions at which people try to become heterosexual through counselling. Gay rights activists condemn such practices as motivated by religious faith, not science, and call them "pray away the gay" groups.

    Spitzer's study looked at the experiences of 200 people undertaking the therapy, including subjects that had been provided by religious groups. He then asked each person the same set of questions, analysing their responses to the therapy and their feelings and sexual urges afterwards. He concluded that many of them reported feelings of changes in their sexual desires from homosexual to heterosexual.

    Spitzer's stance was notorious, because in 1973 he had been instrumental in getting the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder in its diagnostic manual: a move seen at the time as a major victory for gay rights.

    His 2001 study caused a huge stir because many people felt that it was not rigorous enough for publication. The central criticism was that Spitzer had not paid enough attention to the fact that subjects might lie about their feelings or be engaged in self-deception.

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  9. continued from previous comment:

    For more than a decade Spitzer shrugged off the attacks and stood by his work, but he has now admitted that his critics were right. "I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject's reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject's accounts of change were valid," Spitzer wrote.

    In an interview with the New York Times last week, Spitzer, who is 79 and suffers from Parkinson's disease, described how he had written his letter of recantation in the middle of the night after agonising over the study's impact.

    He had also recently been visited by a gay magazine journalist, Gabriel Arana, who had described to him his own experience going through reparation therapy and how damaging it had been and how it had led to thoughts of suicide. "It's the only regret I have; the only professional one," Spitzer told the New York Times, which described him as being almost in tears as he talked about his decision to admit he was wrong.

    "In the history of psychiatry I don't know that I've ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologised to his readers. That's something, don't you think?" Spitzer told the newspaper.

    Gay rights group Truth Wins Out published the full text of the letter on its website and hailed the moment as a major step forward. "Spitzer's apology to the victims of 'pray away the gay' therapy … marks a watershed moment in the fight against the 'ex-gay' myth," the group said.


  10. Gay cure therapist loses appeal against suspension

    by National Secular Society, UK May 23, 2012

    A Christian psychotherapist has lost her appeal against suspension from her professional body after being struck off after attempting to convert a homosexual man to heterosexuality.

    In 2009, campaigning journalist Patrick Strudwick used hidden tape recorders to catch Christian therapist Lesley Pilkington, who believes that homosexuality is sinful, offering to “cure” him using methods that have been condemned as dangerous. His report of his experiences was published in The Independent.

    A hearing carried out by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) in 2011, ruled that Mrs Pilkington had fallen short of professional standards by making “premature and reckless” diagnoses.

    An appeal panel this week found that she had failed to take enough steps to ensure that Mr Strudwick fully understood what her counselling entailed and the “precise belief system that underpinned it”. However, the appeal panel ruled that the controversial therapy itself did not necessarily breach professional standards.

    Reacting to her unsuccessful appeal, Mrs Pilkington told The Telegraph that counsellors with traditional views now face being “closed down”.

    Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mrs Pilkington said: “People who practise reparative therapy are increasingly pushed out of the public sphere.

    “A truly tolerant society would allow for this therapy to continue not to treat it with suspicion and those who practise it with suspicion.”

    However, as counselling and psychotherapy is unregulated in the UK, Mrs Pilkington is still free to offer such services, but can no longer claim senior accredited status of the BACP.

    Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager at the National Secular Society said Mrs Pilkington was “guilty of religiously inspired bigotry parading as psychotherapy.”

    He said “There is no question of her religious freedoms being impeded. The important factor in the delivery of any therapy or counselling is that the professional providing the service adheres to their professional code of conduct. Mrs Pilkington clearly believes her religious beliefs are far more important than any code of conduct, which is why the BACP Governing body found unanimously that she was guilty of professional malpractice.”

    Mr Strudwick said: “I am delighted that the BACP has upheld their original decision. Mrs Pilkington’s therapeutic practices have been held up to scrutiny and found to be fundamentally flawed.

    “This case sets a vital precedent. I urge anyone involved in this harmful practice to take note of this case and desist. Love needs no cure.”


  11. Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay Cure Is Renounced

    By ERIK ECKHOLM, New York Times July 6, 2012

    For more than three decades, Exodus International has been the leading force in the so-called ex-gay movement, which holds that homosexuals can be “cured” through Christian prayer and psychotherapy.

    Exodus leaders claimed its network of ministries had helped tens of thousands rid themselves of unwanted homosexual urges. The notion that homosexuality is not inborn but a choice was seized on by conservative Christian groups who oppose legal protections for gay men and lesbians and same-sex marriage.

    But the ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network.

    “For the last 37 years, Exodus has been a bright light, arguably the brightest one for those with same-sex attraction seeking an authentically Christian hope,” said Andrew Comiskey, founder and director of Desert Stream Ministries, based in Kansas City, Mo., one of 11 ministries that defected. His group left Exodus in May, Mr. Comiskey said in an e-mail, “due to leader Alan Chambers’s appeasement of practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christian” as well as his questioning of the reality of “sexual orientation change.”

    In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.

    He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven.

    Only a few years ago, Mr. Chambers was featured in advertisements along with his wife, Leslie, saying, “Change is possible.” But now, he said in the interview, “Exodus needs to move beyond that slogan.”

    “I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according to the Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations.

    Mr. Chambers’s comments come at a time of widening acceptance of homosexuality and denunciation of reparative therapy by professional societies that say it is based on faulty science and potentially harmful.

    A bill to outlaw “conversion therapy” for minors has passed the California Senate and is now before the State Assembly. Earlier this year, a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, apologized for publishing what he now calls an invalid study, which said many patients had largely or totally switched their sexual orientation.

    Defenders of the therapy say that it can bring deep changes in sexual orientation and that the attacks are politically motivated.

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    David H. Pickup, a therapist in Glendale, Calif., who specializes in the treatment, said restricting it would harm people who are unhappy with their homosexuality by “making them feel that no change is possible at all.”

    Mr. Pickup, an officer of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, composed of like-minded therapists, said reparative therapy had achieved profound changes for thousands of people, including himself. The therapy, he said, had helped him confront emotional wounds and “my homosexual feelings began to dissipate and attractions for women grew.”

    Some in the ex-gay world are more scathing about Mr. Chambers.

    “I think Mr. Chambers is tired of his own personal struggles, so he’s making excuses for them by making sweeping generalizations about others,” said Gregg Quinlan, a conservative lobbyist in New Jersey and president of a support group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.

    Exodus International, with a budget of $1.5 million provided by donors and member churches, is on a stable footing, Mr. Chambers said. He said the shifts in theology had the support of the Exodus board and had been welcomed by many of the 150 churches that are members in North America, which increasingly have homosexuals in their congregations. More opposition has come from affiliated ministries specifically devoted to sex-related therapies, with 11 quitting Exodus so far while about 70 remain.

    In another sign of change, the vice chairman of the Exodus board, Dennis Jernigan, was forced to resign in June after he supported anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica. The board pledged to fight efforts anywhere to criminalize sexual acts between consenting adults.

    Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.

    Gay rights advocates said they were encouraged by Mr. Chambers’s recent turn but remained wary of Exodus, which they feel has caused enormous harm.

    “Exodus International played the key role in planting the message that people can go from gay to straight through religion and therapy,” said Wayne Besen, director of Truth Wins Out, a group that refutes what it considers misinformation about gays and lesbians. “And the notion that one can change is the centerpiece of the religious right’s argument for denying us rights.”

    Many of the local ministries in Exodus continue to attack gays and lesbians, said David Roberts, editor of the Web site Ex-Gay Watch, and they often have close ties with reparative therapists. He speculated that Mr. Chambers was trying to steer the group in a moderate direction because “they were becoming pariahs” in a society that is more accepting of gay people.

    Mr. Chambers said he was simply trying to restore Exodus to its original purpose when it was founded in 1976: providing spiritual support for Christians who are struggling with homosexual attraction.

    He said that he was happy in his marriage, with a “love and devotion much deeper than anything I experienced in gay life,” but that he knew this was not feasible for everyone. Many Christians with homosexual urges may have to strive for lives of celibacy.

    But those who fail should not be severely judged, he said, adding, “We all struggle or fall in some way.”


  13. Mark Craddock, Christian Sect Doctor, Banned For Prescribing 'Gay Cure' Drug Used For Castration

    By Cavan Sieczkowski The Huffington Post August 5, 2012

    An Australian doctor and member of a conservative Christian sect has been banned from practicing medicine after he prescribed a teenager a chemical castration drug to be used as a "gay cure."

    Dr. Mark Craddock of Sydney, who is also a member of the Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship sect, prescribed an 18-year-old man who was also part of the sect with the drug after he came out as gay, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    In a letter to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, the unnamed man, who is now 24, said that when he came out as gay, a church leader told him ''there's medication you can go on." He continued, ''He recommended that I speak to Dr Craddock on the matter with a view to my being placed on medication to help me with my 'problem','' the New Zealand resident said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    The teen went to visit the 75-year-old doctor who then prescribed him with a "gay cure": the anti-androgen therapy cyproterone acetate, sold under the brand name Cyprostat, along with five repeats, according to ninemsn. He said the doctor did not refer him to a psychologist or discuss the drug's side effects.

    Cyprostat is a form of hormone therapy used to treat prostate cancer. The drug will "work by stopping testosterone from reaching the cancer cells. Without testosterone the prostate cancer cells are not able to grow," according to the UK's Prostate Cancer Charity. Hormone suppressants have been used to "chemically castrate" sex offenders, the Guardian notes.

    A hearing by the Medical Council of the Australian State of New South Wales determined, "Dr Craddock failed to adequately assess the patient and failed to provide appropriate medical management of the patients therapeutic needs," in an excerpt obtained by Gay Star News. The committee found that Craddock was guilty of "unsatisfactory processional conduct. He was severely reprimanded and practice restrictions were placed on his registration."

    There are more than 40,000 Exclusive Brethren around the world, according to the sect's official website. They "believe strongly in the traditional family unit. Marriage is held in the greatest [honor], as one of God's original thoughts of blessing for the human race."

    Some doctors, like Craddock, have taken somewhat dangerous steps in an attempt to "cure" homosexuality. In 2010, Dr. Maria New of New York City's Mount Sinai was reportedly experimenting with injecting fetuses with steroids to potentially make girls "more feminine" and reduce odds they turn out gay, the Oregonian reported at the time.

    The American Psychiatric Association has condemned the "treatment" of homosexuality, according to GLAAD, saying, "The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

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    Activists have championed against "gay cures" in the United Kingdom, which includes Conversion Therapy. Last year, Apple pulled Exodus International's "Gay Cure" app from its collection.

    Below, see 11 horrific "cures" for homosexuality:


    In 2009 Manifested Glory Ministries came under fire when a 20-minute video posted on YouTube showed a 16 year old being subjected to an exorcism to "cure" him of his homosexuality. The boy is shown writhing as church members stand on his feet, hold him under the arms and scream, "Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!"


    Electrocution has long been a go-to tool for "curing" homosexuality and is still used to this day. In October Nathan Manske, the founder and Executive Director of I'm From Driftwood, a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories, shared the story of Samuel Brinton on HuffPost Gay Voices. Brinton was raised in rural Iowa and he spoke of growing up gay in a conservative, Southern Baptist family that subjected him to forced Christian conversion therapy. "We then went into the 'Month of Hell,'" Brinton explains in the video above. "The 'Month of Hell' consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted."


    Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German psychiatrist who practiced during the 19th century, prescribed a trip to a brothel, preceded by lots of drinking, to cure men of their homosexuality. Women who were "afflicted," it's noted, "were referred only to their husbands."


    Hypnotism was a common tool used during the 19th century to "cure" homosexuals. When Schrenck-Notzing wasn't busy sending gay men to brothels, he was hypnotizing them. In 1892 the German psychiatrist reported success in treating 32 cases of "sexual perversions." Of the 32 cases, 12 were classified as "cured," meaning "the patients were completely able to 'combat fixed ideas [about homosexuality], deepen a sense of duty, self-control, and right-mindedness.'"

    Fetal Intervention

    Günther Dorner, who worked with the Institute for Experimental Endocrinology in the middle of the 20th century, believed that homosexuality is "determined by prenatal gendering of the brain caused by endocrinological disturbances." He hypothesized that if you could alter any hormonal imbalances present in the womb -- as he attempted to do with fetal rats -- homosexuality could be prevented before it even developed.

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    'Overdosing' On Homosexuality

    In the 1960s British psychologist I. Oswald would pump a gay man full of nausea-inducing drugs before surrounding him with glasses of urine and playing audio recordings of men having sex. Oswald was attempting to "overdose" gay men on homosexuality in hopes that they would "turn to women for relief."


    American neurologist Graeme M. Hammond suggests bicycling as a cure for homosexuality. He believed "homosexuality was rooted in nervous exhaustion and that bicycle exercise would restore health and heterosexuality."

    Cold Showers

    In June of 2011 Hong Kong reportedly hired a psychiatrist to give a government-sponsored training session on conversion therapy. Among the techniques Hong Kwai-wah suggested for "curing" homosexuality were cold showers, prayer, and abstinence.


    Eugen Steinach (1861-1944), director of the Biological Institute in Vienna, believed that homosexuality was the result of hormonal imbalances. To prove his hypothesis, the scientist implanted sex organs in neutered rats and Guinea pigs and claimed to have conducted successful "sex change" operations on the rodents. Steinach's research didn't end with animals. He also transplanted testicles from heterosexual men into gay men in hopes of "remasculizing the recipient."

    Cocaine, Strychnine, Genital Mutilation

    Physician Denslow Lewis believed that women brought up in wealthy 19th century homes could develop "sexual hyperesthesia [excessive sensitivity to stimuli]" and become lesbians. In order to cure these women he prescribed "cocaine solutions, saline cathartics, the surgical "liberation" of adherent clitorises, or even the administration of strychnine by hypodermic." Though he claimed that some of his patients were "cured" and became wives and mothers, one went insane and died in an asylum.


    "Pray the gay away!" has become the battle cry of the conversion therapy movement. From Marcus Bachmann's alleged conversion clinic to an ex-gay iPhone app, those who believe homosexuality is not only wrong but curable rely on the power of prayer to make a miracle happen.


  16. N.C. Man Says Church Kept Him Imprisoned for Being Gay

    By COLLEEN CURRY ABC News October 22, 2012

    A North Carolina church that has previously faced allegations of harassment and child abuse is the subject of a new investigation launched after a 22-year-old man claims he was held against his will for being gay.

    Michael Lowry, who began attending Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, N.C., as a child, filed a complaint with police earlier this year and has met with investigators multiple times over the past week about the allegations, according to police.

    Lowry claims that he was kept in a church dormitory for months in 2011 after telling church members he was gay, according to the Charlotte Observer.

    Lowry told ABC News affiliate WLOS that he was knocked unconscious by church members in Aug., 2011, as they read him scripture because of his sexuality.

    "The pastor said to find out what my darkest secret was, and I was like, 'I'm never telling,' Lowry told WLOS. "They hit my head with fists and I was out on the floor, they held my hands and feet down and were pushing on my chest and I could barely breathe."

    The Word of Faith Church was investigated for child abuse and founder Jane Whaley was convicted of abusing a congregant. The conviction was later overturned. The church also sued North Carolina's Department of Social Services in the 1990s over the child abuse charges, obtaining a $300,000 award and having the child abuse charges expunged, according to court records.

    Lowry could not be reached for comment by ABC News.

    The Rutherford County, N.C., sheriff's department met with Lowry on Friday to go over his claims again, according to Sheriff Chris Francis.

    "We did a follow up interview, we looked at the allegations against the individuals, and it looks like they're part of the church, and then we did a presentation to the district attorney and the assistant district attorney on Friday," Francis said. "We believe there will be a presentation to the grand jury sometime in the near future."

    Lowry has been subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury about his claims, Francis said.

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    Jane Whaley, a pastor of Word of Faith, told ABC News the allegations are "not the truth at all."

    Whaley said she and other church members, including Lowry's parents, had no idea Lowry was gay until a televised news report which aired last week. He never told them he was gay when he was a church member, she said.

    "As far as this church being against gays, that's absurdity. There are 18 people in this church who have been delivered, they're not homosexual anymore, but if they were they could still stay in the church," she said.

    Whaley said that the room Lowry claimed to be locked in is not able to be locked from the outside. She said that Lowry came willingly to stay at the church after his parents threw him out for "rebellious behavior" and that he stayed in a building used for Bible study.

    Whaley pointed out that Lowry has appeared on news broadcasts with a fellow ex-church member, Jerry Cooper, on numerous occasions to discuss the allegations. Cooper has been outspoken about his dislike for the church, she said.

    "(Lowry) wouldn't be saying this except some disgruntled members have pushed him to do that, one of them being the guy that's with him and two others," Whaley said today. Whaley noted that she still loved Lowry and Cooper, despite their claims.

    Cooper has pressed charges against Word of Faith members for harassment, and a court date is set for November, Sheriff Chris Francis said.

    "I've witnessed it, the patterns, the people held down, the loud screaming, all of it, so I knew Michael's story was very credible," Cooper told WLOS in an interview with Lowry present.

    Carol Reynolds, who works for the church, said that their ministry has grown to more than 800 congregants who do outreach work throughout the U.S., and in Brazil and Ghana.


  18. California bans teenage gay conversion therapy

    BBC News October 1, 2012

    California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a ban on therapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

    When the law comes into effect on 1 January, the Golden State will become the first to outlaw the practice for people under the age of 18.

    The bill was backed by mental health groups, and gay rights activists say reparative or "conversion therapy" can increase risk of depression or suicide.

    Counselling and prayer is used to help some Christians deal with gay urges.

    The bill was signed over the weekend along with more than 100 pieces of legislation sent to the governor by California's state legislature.

    'Junk science'

    In a statement, Mr Brown said sexual orientation change efforts "have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery".

    The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, said: "We're grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California's children.

    "LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being," the gay rights advocate added, urging other states to take up similar measures.

    But the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality said the bill was a "legislative over-reach".

    Some conservative groups have said banning the therapy would restrict a parent's right to care for children going through gender confusion.

    California is embroiled in a long-standing legal tussle over gay marriage.

    A law called Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage in California just months after it had been introduced. But a court overturned the ban in 2010.

    After an appeal was upheld, the matter may now come before the US Supreme Court for a final ruling.


  19. A Burning Question: Is Heterosexuality Illegal in California?

    by Don Terry, Southern Poverty Law Center October 3, 2012

    The headline is sensational and does what headlines are supposed to do – it grabs your attention:

    “California Bans Heterosexuality.”

    After my initial shock, I settled down and read the story under the headline and quickly learned, to my great relief, that the Golden State hasn’t really banned heterosexuality – at least not yet.

    The story turns out to be the latest anti-gay rant from Linda Harvey’s Columbus, Ohio-based website, Mission: America, whose subtitle is “Christian Commentary on the Culture.” Her outfit is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog.

    In this case, the commentary is about California Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill on Saturday that made his state the first in the country to prohibit mental health providers from subjecting LGBT children and teens to therapy intended to change their sexual orientation.

    “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” The New York Times quoted the governor as saying in a statement after he signed the bill into law. “These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

    Needless to say, Mission: America sees the bill in a much different light.

    “California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a law that essentially removes choice for most teens with homosexual attractions, except to enter that sinful and high risk lifestyle,” the commentary says. “Counselors cannot warn them or steer them away from these desires.

    “What’s next, ‘LGBT’ loyalty oaths?”

    On her website, Harvey calls what she does a “media ministry’’ and an outgrowth of her “Christian faith and a successful career in journalism, marketing and public relations.” Her on-line bio goes on to say she founded Mission: America in 1995 as “a non-profit organization whose objective is to equip Christians with current, accurate information” – like California’s ban on heterosexuality? – “about cultural issues such as feminism, homosexuality, education and New Age influences.’’

    Gathered together on the site, under the heading “The ‘Gay’ Agenda Targeting Youth,” are some of the many articles she has written about her fears of a gay planet. They include: “How Homosexual Friends Can Influence Our Kids,” “Protecting Youth Against Homosexuality: A Plan for Churches,” and “Grooming Kids in a ‘Gay’ Identity is Like Penn State Abuse.’’

    Here’s another headline for you: “California Bans Heterosexual Bigots.” Come on, governor, the dustbin has plenty of room.


  20. Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’ Faces Test in Courts

    By ERIK ECKHOLM New York Times November 27, 2012

    Gay “conversion therapy,” which claims to help men overcome unwanted same-sex attractions but has been widely attacked as unscientific and harmful, is facing its first tests in the courtroom.

    In New Jersey on Tuesday, four gay men who tried the therapy filed a civil suit against a prominent counseling group, charging it with deceptive practices under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

    The former clients said they were emotionally scarred by false promises of inner transformation and humiliating techniques that included stripping naked in front of the counselor and beating effigies of their mothers. They paid thousands of dollars in fees over time, they said, only to be told that the lack of change in their sexual feelings was their own fault.

    In California, so-called ex-gay therapists have gone to court to argue for the other side. They are seeking to block a new state law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September and celebrated as a milestone by advocates for gay rights, that bans conversion therapy for minors.

    In Sacramento on Friday, a federal judge will hear the first of two legal challenges brought by conservative law groups claiming that the ban is an unconstitutional infringement on speech, religion and privacy.

    Since the 1970s, when mainstream mental health associations stopped branding homosexuality as a disorder, a small network of renegade therapists, conservative religious leaders and self-identified “life coaches” has continued to argue that it is not inborn, but an aberration rooted in childhood trauma. Homosexuality is caused, these therapists say, by a stifling of normal masculine development, often by distant fathers and overbearing mothers or by early sexual abuse.

    An industry of “reparative therapy” clinics and men’s weekend retreats has drawn thousands of teenagers and adults who hope to rid themselves of homosexual urges, whether because of religious beliefs or family pressures.

    But leading scientific and medical groups say that the theories of sexuality are unfounded and that there is no evidence that core sexual urges can be changed. They also warn that the therapy can, in the words of the American Psychiatric Association, cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

    Those conclusions will be at the center of the coming legal fights in the state and federal courts.

    In the spotlight in New Jersey are a counseling center called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or Jonah; its co-founder Arthur Goldberg; and an affiliated “life coach,” Alan Downing.

    Mr. Goldberg helped found Jonah in 1999, after he finished serving a prison sentence and probation for financial fraud he committed in the 1980s. The group describes itself as “dedicated to educating the worldwide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors that lead to same-sex attractions,” and says it “works directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions,” including non-Jews.

    While many Orthodox Jews consider homosexual relations to be a violation of divine law, Mr. Goldberg’s group has no official standing within Judaism, and many Jews accept homosexuality.

    Neither Mr. Goldberg nor Mr. Downing is licensed as a therapist, so they are not subject to censure by professional associations.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, a rights group based in Montgomery, Ala., is bringing the suit on behalf of four former patients and two of their mothers, who say they paid thousands of dollars not only for useless therapy for their sons but also for more counseling to undo the damage.

    “The defendants peddled antigay pseudoscience, defaming gay people as loathsome and deranged,” said Sam Wolfe, a lawyer with the group.

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  21. The suit, filed in Superior Court in Hudson County, calls for monetary compensation and for a shutdown of Jonah.

    Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Downing did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

    One former patient in the suit, Michael Ferguson, 30, who is now a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of Utah, sought help from Jonah in 2008. He tried to battle his homosexuality, he said, when he was a practicing Mormon who believed that only those in a heterosexual marriage could achieve eternal bliss.

    Mr. Ferguson attended a retreat called Journey Into Manhood, where he shared what he called his “dark secret” with 40 other men. To be accepted among men who were also struggling with homosexuality was euphoric, he said, but that temporary high was not the promised first step toward becoming heterosexual.

    After months of $100 therapy sessions with Mr. Downing at Jonah’s offices in Jersey City, and after suffering from depression that led him to see a licensed psychotherapist elsewhere, Mr. Ferguson said, he realized that he was not changing.

    “It becomes fraudulent, even cruel,” he said in an interview. “To say that if you really want to change you could — that’s an awful thing to tell somebody.”

    “I was encouraged to develop anger and rage toward my parents,” he added. “The notion that your parents caused this is a horrible lie. They ask you to blame your mother for being loving and wonderful.”

    Another former patient in the suit, Chaim Levin, 23, grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn where, he said, being gay seemed unthinkable.

    Referred to Jonah by a rabbi when he was 18, Mr. Levin began attending weekend retreats at $650 each. For a year and a half, he had weekly private sessions with Mr. Downing as well as weekly group sessions. He quit, he said, after Mr. Downing had him remove his clothes and touch himself, saying it would help him reconnect with his masculinity. Mr. Goldberg has defended Mr. Downing’s methods as sometimes appropriate for men dealing with body image problems.

    But Mr. Levin called the episode “degrading and humiliating.”

    Mr. Levin said that he was sexually abused by a relative between the ages of 6 and 10 and that Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Downing blamed the abuse for his homosexual attractions. “Saying the abuse made you gay is terrible,” Mr. Levin said. “Once I accepted that I was gay, I was able to focus on the more serious problem of a history of sex abuse.”

    Many of the same issues surrounding conversion therapy will be argued before federal judges in California as therapists, some represented by Liberty Counsel and others by the Pacific Justice Institute, seek to prevent the state ban from taking effect in January.

    Responding to the accusations of constitutional violations, a brief by the California attorney general’s office cited the extensive professional literature that discredits conversion therapy and said the new law barred harmful conduct but not speech or religion. Since the ban applies only to licensed therapists, religious counselors will not be affected.

    Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, said, “The law is clear that the government can prohibit health care practices that are harmful or ineffective.”

    If the court accepts the scientific evaluation put forward by the state, he said, “the government is likely to prevail in the end.”


  22. SPLC files groundbreaking lawsuit accusing conversion therapy organization of fraud

    Southern Poverty Law Center November 27, 2012

    The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit today accusing a New Jersey organization of consumer fraud for offering conversion therapy services – a dangerous and discredited practice that claims to convert people from gay to straight.

    The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charges that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), its founder, Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by providing conversion therapy claiming to cure clients of being gay.

    It is the first time a conversion therapy provider has been sued for fraudulent business practices. The lawsuit describes how the plaintiffs – four young men and two of their parents – were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.

    “JONAH profits off of shameful and dangerous attempts to fix something that isn’t broken,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Despite the consensus of mainstream professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn’t work, this racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them.”

    The lawsuit describes how the underlying premise of conversion therapy – that a person can “convert” to heterosexuality – has no basis in scientific fact. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. It is the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences that homosexuality is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.

    Customers of JONAH’s services typically pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions. The lawsuit describes sessions that involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with the counselor, Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrest away two oranges, which were used to represent testicles, from another individual.

    “Sadly, there is no accountability for those who practice conversion therapy,” said Michael Ferguson, a conversion therapy survivor and plaintiff in the lawsuit. “They play blindly with deep emotions and create an immense amount of self-doubt for the client. They seize on your personal vulnerability, and tell you that being gay is synonymous with being less of a man. They further misrepresent themselves as having the key to your new orientation.”

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  23. Downing and other counselors at JONAH also use techniques that leave clients alienated from their families. These techniques encourage clients to blame their parents for being gay. Clients even participate in violent role play exercises where they beat effigies of their mothers.

    “These counselors are skilled at manipulating you into believing just about anything,” said Benjamin Unger, another plaintiff in the case. “During my time with JONAH, they told me constantly that my mom had made me gay. I was so convinced that I refused to have any contact with her for several months, which caused a great deal of damage to our relationship.”

    JONAH, formerly known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for Homosexuality, was founded by Goldberg, a former Wall Street executive and attorney. Before founding JONAH, Goldberg was convicted of three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He was ultimately disbarred from being an attorney.

    “People who are told repeatedly that they are innately defective are being abused and traumatized,” said Laura Booker, a licensed clinical social worker who helps people recover from conversion therapy’s devastating effects. “The cost of conversion therapy to gay men and lesbians may be nothing less than emotional devastation. They may spend years recovering from the trauma inflicted upon them.”

    Conversion therapy also promotes the idea that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation, a position that encourages a climate of anti-gay bigotry.

    The American Psychological Association has expressed concern that the positions espoused by some of the leading advocates of conversion therapy, such as the National Association for Research Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” JONAH’s practices include so-called scientific methods invented by NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi.

    The law firms of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP and Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC are serving as the SPLC’s co-counsel on the case. The SPLC has previously filed complaints against conversion therapists with the American Psychiatric Association and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

    More information about the SPLC’s campaign to end conversion therapy, including an interactive map showing the location of therapists who advertise conversion therapy, can be found here.

    to view the numerous links and charts embedded in this article go to:


  24. Law banning gay conversion therapy put on hold by judge

    By Ashley Fantz, CNN December 4, 2012

    CNN) -- A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction on California's ban on "conversion" therapy -- a method some say can help turn a gay person straight.

    The first of its kind in the United States, the state ban was intended to prevent young people under 18 from undergoing the controversial treatment. It would have gone into effect January 1.

    Conversion therapy has been being hotly debated across the country for some time. In November, four homosexual men who underwent the therapy filed a civil suit in New Jersey against a counseling group, saying they were deceived under the state's Consumer Fraud Act.

    The therapy techniques described in that lawsuit included having participants strip naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimate holding of others of the same sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers with a tennis racket, visiting bath houses "in order to be nude with father figures," and being "subjected to ridicule as 'faggots' and 'homos' in mock locker room scenarios."

    Some psychologists insist conversion therapy is dangerous to patients, and say it simply does not work.

    "To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective," the American Psychological Association writes on its website.

    "Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons," says the APA, the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States.

    Since 1975, the APA has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations.

    U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled Monday that the ban Gov. Jerry Brown signed earlier this year could offend the First Amendment rights of therapists to express their opinions about homosexuality. Three plaintiffs filed the suit, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional.

    The plaintiffs are a licensed marriage and family therapist who is also an ordained minister; a medical doctor and board-certified psychiatrist who works with people over 16 years old; and a man who was sexually attracted to other men but who wanted to practice conversion therapy to "help" men like him.

    Earlier this year, Brown tweeted about the measure to ban conversion therapy on minors.

    "This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," the governor tweeted. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine."

    Shubb counters in a 38-page ruling that he didn't believe there was sufficient evidence to support the argument that conversion therapy could prompt patients to commit suicide.

    That assumption is "based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors," the judge wrote.

    David Pickup, a spokesman for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, believes conversion therapy is valid and should be used.

    "We do competent therapy, therapy that truly works," he told CNN in October, adding that he'd undergone the treatment himself and was treating others.

    California governor OKs ban on gay conversion therapy, calling it 'quackery'


  25. Ex-Gay Group Shuts Down, But Movement Is Re-Branding

    by Michelangelo Signorile, Huffington Postt June 20, 2013

    It's terrific news that Exodus International, the largest and most known group that promoted "reparative therapy," is shutting down. But don't be fooled into thinking this is anything more than a re-branding for the "pray-away-the-gay" movement. It's certainly not a surrender.

    The damage the group has done to thousands of LGBT people in the more than 35 years since Exodus International came into existence is immeasurable. We've long known that these crackpot therapies don't "convert" people to heterosexuality, hearing from the many who went through them, including one of Exodus' founders, Michael Bussee, who denounced the group and apologized for having helped create it. And in recent years we've learned more about the emotional and psychological harm done by these groups, with studies confirming it. The president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, issued an apology, stating that "from a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we're all prodigal sons and daughters" and that "Exodus International is the prodigal's older brother, trying to impose its will on God's promises, and make judgments on who's worthy of His Kingdom."

    It was a welcome admission from a Christian evangelical leader to say that, in condemning gays, Christian fundamentalists are judging others, something that is against their own tenants. But Chambers has been moving in this direction for some time, as his group was battered with bad PR and an inability to raise money. Chambers was increasing being isolated from other Christian right groups after he admitted that for the vast majority of people who went through ex-gay programs, it was a failure in terms of converting people to heterosexuality. He also had stopped using the term "reparative therapy."

    But as Truth Wins Out, the group that monitors the conversion therapy charlatans, notes, many who led these programs are now embarking on a re-branding rather than shutting down.

    In response to Exodus's movements of late, hardcore fundamentalist "ex-gay" figures have moved to create their own new group, the Restored Hope Network, which is chaired by Anne Paulk, the estranged wife of John Paulk, the former poster-boy for the "ex-gay" movement who now admits that he is an openly gay man. Restored Hope's co-founder, Andrew Comiskey, has claimed that "Satan delights in homosexual perversion," which shows that this new group is committed to doing as much as or more damage than Exodus ever did.

    In a world where many children are taught by families and churches that their sexual or gender difference is some sort of sickness and is condemned by God, there will always be those who are desperate to "change," no matter how wrong and futile that will be. And there will always be those who are willing to help them try to do that, either because of their own warped beliefs or to make money or both. The last thing we should be doing is believing "ex-gay" therapy is dead simply because the largest group has shut its doors. It's a measure of our success that the anti-gay right that promotes these harmful therapies has to re-brand itself. But we've got to keep exposing them, because, re-branded and underground, they could now be even more dangerous and deceptive than ever before.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to:


  26. US court upholds first-in-nation law in Calif banning gay-to-straight therapy for minors

    By Associated Press August 29, 2013

    SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court sided with California on Thursday and upheld the first law in the nation banning a psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay youth straight.

    In a resounding, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the state law barring the so-called gay aversion therapy legal in every respect.

    The judges said trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous, and that California lawmakers properly showed that the sexual orientation change efforts were outside the scientific mainstream and have been rejected for good reason.

    “One could argue that children under the age of 18 are especially vulnerable with respect to sexual identity and that their parents’ judgment may be clouded by this emotionally charged issue as well,” Judge Susan Graber wrote for the court panel.

    The California Legislature cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy before members voted last year to ban it for minors.

    “Efforts to change a young person’s sexual orientation pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide,” Lambda Legal, which defends gay rights, said in an email statement about Thursday’s ruling.

    The activities of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs are not covered by the law.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a similar law that would also outlaw the therapy in his state.

    Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal aid group that represents supporters of the practice, said it will either ask a larger panel of the court to reconsider the decision or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. Liberty Counsel is also fighting the New Jersey law.

    “The minors that Liberty Counsel represents do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior,” the group said in an email statement. “They are greatly benefiting from this counseling.”

    Liberty and other backers of the therapy argue that lawmakers have no conclusive, scientific proof that the therapy does harm.

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  27. When California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, he said the therapy was “quackery,” and sessions trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation have “no basis in science or medicine.”

    The court ruling on Thursday resolved two conflicting lower decisions while reinstating the ban. Those decisions came after judges wrestled with the legality of the state law that backers said punishes licensed therapists for trying to change the sexual orientation of minors.

    The 9th Circuit said lawmakers relied on sufficient credible data to pass the law, including scientific reports, expert testimony and anecdotal evidence. No mainstream psychological organization supports the treatment.

    The Legislature also considered evidence that the practice is safe and effective, but the overwhelming consensus was that it was harmful and ineffective, Graber wrote for the panel.

    “On this record, we have no trouble concluding that the Legislature acted rationally by relying on that consensus,” she said.

    Graber said the court only had to decide whether the therapy was potentially harmful to children and didn’t need to decide if it was dangerous for adults because their emotions about their sexual identity may be vastly different.

    Supporters of the therapy argued in court that the state law violated the free speech rights of counselors; the law was so poorly written that it left practitioners confused over determining the legality of their treatment; and trampled on parental rights to make mental health decisions for their children. In short, the proponents of the therapy argued that the state law cut off a legitimate mental health treatment.

    The law says therapists and counselors who practice the therapy would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. It was supposed to take effect at the beginning of the year but was put on hold pending the 9th Circuit’s ruling. Thursday’s ruling reverses that injunction.

    Graber was appointed to the appeals court from the Oregon Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1997. She was joined in the ruling by Chief Judge Alex Kozinksi, appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, and Judge Morgan Christen, appointed to the appeals court by President Obama last year.


  28. Christian counsellors ban therapy aimed at 'converting' gay patients

    Association of Christian Counsellors bans trying to turn gay patients straight but disgraced therapist vows to fight ruling

    by Patrick Strudwick, The Guardian, January 13, 2014

    Britain's leading body for Christian therapists has instructed its members to stop trying to turn gay patients straight using so-called "conversion therapy".

    The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) said the practice should be stopped "in the interests of public safety", but the move has prompted a furious response from proponents of talking "cures" for homosexuality who have promised to fight for what they see as the right to therapy of anyone distressed by "unwanted same sex attraction".

    The controversial practice seeks to unearth childhood traumas, which are considered by conversion therapists to have caused homosexuality. Sexual abuse, bullying and having an overbearing mother or distant father are among the supposed triggers.

    Research by the US clinical psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder has shown such treatment routinely led to worsened mental health, self-harm, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.

    The decision by the ACC to speak out against the practice follows similar statements in the last two years by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health.

    The ACC said the treatment, also called reparative therapy, "implies that sexuality can be 'repaired' and so introduces the idea of treatment or cure … it suggests that a specific outcome is possible and appears to make an a priori assumption that it should happen".

    The statement makes it clear that the practice is incompatible with the Equality Act 2010 and it is not endorsed.

    However, one organisation preparing to resist the ruling is the Core Issues Trust, a Northern Irish group that campaigns for Christian therapists who attempt to "treat" homosexuality and whose 2012 adverts stating, "Not gay! Ex-gay, Post-gay and Proud. Get over it!" were prevented from appearing on London buses by Boris Johnson after the Guardian alerted the mayor.

    In an online statement rebuking the ACC's position, the Core Issues Trust said it was "a misapplication of Equalities Act 2010 [sic]", demanded the ACC "provide empirical evidence to support its misleading statement produced on the matter of counselling same-sex attracted persons" and urged the organisation to "avoid compromise of its members' right to teach and uphold orthodox Christian sexual ethics".

    Other therapists are also preparing to lobby against the ACC's new stance. Lesley Pilkington, who has been on the ACC register, became the first psychotherapist in history to be "struck off" after practising conversion therapy. In 2012, after her methods were exposed, the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) revoked her membership, finding her guilty of "professional malpractice", but she was able to join the ACC as counselling and psychotherapy remains unregulated by statute.

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  29. In emails from Pilkington seen by the Guardian, the disgraced therapist said there was "a fight going on", adding, "I believe that if anyone is distressed by their unwanted same sex attraction they should have the right to help and therapy … I will be releasing my own statement soon."

    The ACC justified its new stance – a change since their its last statement in 2012 – explaining "such models have the potential to create harm and therefore [we] view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling".

    It advised members not to "commence or continue" using such methods and to remove or modify any promotional material advertising such a service, adding: "In the interests of public safety, we have decided to make clear what is expected by those who choose to be part of ACC."

    The second reading of the counsellors and psychotherapists (regulation) bill, introduced by the Labour MP Geraint Davies in an attempt to combat conversion therapy and introduce statutory regulation, will be heard on 24 January. A conference for conversion therapists will take place in London on 16 January.

    Britain's most senior psychiatrist applauded the ACC's position. Professor Dinesh Bhugra, incoming President of the World Psychiatric Association, told the Guardian: "I welcome this major step forward. I very much hope any other organisations who have not already done so follows suit to save a lot of false hope and pain. Psychotherapists and counsellors should focus on supporting individuals to accept normal human variation."


  30. Therapists who say homosexuality can be cured are committing consumer fraud, N.J. judge says

    By Susan K. Livio | NJ.com February 11, 2015

    Trenton, New Jersey: People who provide gay-to-straight conversion therapy are committing fraud if they describe homosexuality as a mental disorder that can be cured, a state judge said Tuesday in a ruling a civil rights group predicted would deal a serious blow to the treatment's future across the nation.

    The decision by Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr., sitting in Hudson County, gives an edge to the four men and two parents suing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing or JONAH, accusing the Jersey City organization that promotes the treatment of violating New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

    The decision is bound to have a far-reaching impact, said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center which brought the lawsuit.

    "This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry," Dinelli said. "For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured. This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients."

    In his Tuesday ruling Bariso said: "It is a misrepresentation in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease (or) disorder." Barsio wrote on Tuesday.

    The ruling also said conversion therapists could not advertise their "success rate" of turning people into heterosexuals because "there is no factual basis for calculating these statistics."

    This is Bariso's second ruling in less than a week that favors the plaintiffs. On Thursday, the judge barred the defense from calling several of the controversial treatment's proponents as witnesses because they had planned to offer scientifically refuted testimony that homosexuality is an illness. In that ruling, he said: "The overwhelming weight of scientific authority concludes that homosexuality is not a disorder or abnormal."

    Charles LiMandri, president and chief counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund that is representing JONAH, said he remains confident a jury will side with his clients "who were only trying to help people."

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  31. JONAH never made money from the treatment, but rather referred clients to therapists who charged for their services, LiMandri said. At no time did they "advertise" success rates -- estimated as one-third successful, one-third somewhat beneficial, and one-third unsuccessful, he said. "If they ask, they will be told. I don't see that as a violation of the consumer fraud act."

    LiMandri said the therapists are not licensed and are often members of the clergy. They were not identifying being gay as a disorder "in a scientific sense," he said.

    "This is not a situation in which people are forced into something they don't want to do. They are trying to deprive plaintiffs of freedom of choice. Americans want people to have the right to free self determination," he added. "I believe when the jury hears all the facts. they will ultimately decide in favor of our clients."

    Arthur Goldberg, a co-director at JONAH who is also named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the judge's ruling. Alan Downing, a life coach and an unlicensed therapist who provides the treatment, is also named in the lawsuit.

    Legal issues still remain when the case goes to trial this summer, Dinielli said.

    "We also have alleged multiple additional violations of the Consumer Fraud Act -- including that JONAH's program taken as a whole is an unconscionable business practice," according to an email from Dinielli. "We will go to trial to prove those additional violations and to obtain damages for our clients as well as an order preventing JONAH from continuing to offer its fraudulent program to the public."

    The plaintiffs in the case — Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, Bella Levin and Jo Bruck — claim those went to the therapists were coerced into engaging in demeaning and emotionally damaging behavior, including having to strip naked and beat images of their mothers.


  32. Can Sexuality Be Changed?

    A trial in New Jersey this week will determine whether telling gay people that they can become straight constitutes consumer fraud. The ruling might mean the end of so-called “conversion therapies” for good.

    by OLGA KHAZAN The Atlantic June 3, 2015

    For 17-year-old Chaim Levin, despair came in the form of a persistent attraction to men—largely because his Orthodox Jewish community rejected homosexuality. After Levin confided to a friend that he was not interested in women, he says he was thrown out of his religious school.

    Levin and his family hoped an organization called JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, could help him become straight. JONAH referred him to an unlicensed life coach named Alan Downing, who began treating him in weekly group and individual therapy sessions beginning in 2007 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

    For one session that reportedly cost $100, Downing asked Levin to stand in front of a full-length mirror. According to court documents, Downing told Levin to say a negative thing about himself and remove an article of clothing with each criticism. When he was fully naked, Levin alleges that Downing told him to touch his penis and his buttocks. Eventually, Downing said “good,” and the session ended. Downing allegedly tried similar nudity-based methods on other JONAH clients.

    Another time, Downing allegedly made Levin and another client re-enact Levin’s childhood sexual abuse. In front of other group members, the other person was instructed to tell Levin, “I won’t love you anymore if you don’t give me blowjobs,” court documents say. (Downing did not return an email and phone call requesting comment.)

    Now Levin and two other young men who also underwent JONAH-affiliated treatment are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the organization. The case is being brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based civil-rights group, which is arguing that JONAH-style treatment—and other “gay conversion therapies” like it—amount to consumer fraud. Quite simply, the SPLC argues, conversion therapy doesn’t work. People can’t become ex-gay, and making promises to the contrary is a false bill of goods.

    “These were very young men,” SPLC senior staff attorney Sam Wolfe told me. “They were from communities where they didn't know gay people, and they didn't know that much about it.”

    New Jersey’s “Consumer Fraud Act protects people from lies or misleading statements,” Wolfe added. “It doesn't matter if our clients voluntarily signed up ... it was like candy to them, so of course they wanted to sign up for it. They believed and trusted the words and promises of the defendants, which turned out to be false. The defendants sold them modern-day snake oil.”

    SPLC lawyers hope that if they prevail, their victory will spur other states to crack down on gay-conversion therapies of all kinds for patients of all ages. Three states, Oregon, California, and New Jersey, as well as Washington D.C., have already banned the practice for minors. Ultimately, the SPLC hopes a court victory will herald the end of ex-gay therapies nationwide. Last month, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill to ban reparative therapy at the federal level. A map created by SPLC currently lists some 70 organizations across 20 states that practice conversion therapy in some form.

    The defendants, meanwhile, have relied on an unusual twist of logic. Though most people remain gay or straight for life, sometimes, sexual preferences change. If sexual orientation is mutable, they say, why should it be unlawful to try to help a person change it? Conversion therapy, to JONAH and its supporters, is a matter of personal freedom and patient choice.

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  33. “I support the right of an adult to seek help from a licensed professional and to live their life as they choose and not as the SPLC says that they have to,” said Maggie Gallagher, the founding board chairwoman of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which is defending JONAH. For some gay people, “their identity in their religious faith is more important to them than their putative sexual identity, and that's a choice that people are entitled to make.”

    At the trial beginning this week, a New Jersey jury will determine if she’s right.

    * * *

    One reason conversion therapy still exists, even in a time of tremendous progress for gay rights, is that the roots of sexual orientation—and of sexual desire in general—have proved devilishly difficult to uncover clinically. Conversion therapists have used this scientific gap to their advantage.

    Nobody really knows how people become gay or straight. A complicated stew of genetics, hormones, upbringing, and environment compels a person to desire some humans over others. Lending some credence to the idea that people are “born this way,” Harvard neuroscientist Simon LeVay found that a region of the brain called the INAH-3, which helps to regulate sexual behavior, tends to be much larger in straight men than in gay men. Some studies have shown that men with older brothers are more likely to be gay. But as LeVay told Salon recently, “being gay or lesbian is not an isolated trait, but part of a package of gendered traits that go together.”

    What mainstream experts agree on, though, is that homosexuality is perfectly normal. (Indeed, a New Jersey Superior Court judge has already granted the SPLC one victory, ruling that it is fraudulent to say that homosexuality is a disorder.)

    It would also be tricky to gauge whether someone has truly become “ex-gay.” Experiments that measure desire only confuse matters further. In studies, straight women tend to get turned on by nude images of other women, and though men’s physiological arousal tends to more closely match their professed sexual preference, at least a small percentage of straight men watch gay porn. Furthermore, many conversion efforts fail because the mere presence of fire in one’s loins is far from the all-encompassing affection it takes to build a lasting romantic relationship.

    “People's sexual orientation is something that they feel is a very central part of their being,” said Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California in Davis. “When you have the idea of people trying to change it in therapy, it's attempting to change something that's a very core part of the person.”

    Doctors’ groups have said repeatedly that conversion therapies don’t work—and that it’s rare for people to become ex-gay. The author of one of the few studies suggesting these treatments are effective, the psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, has admitted to major problems with his study and apologized for publishing it.

    “Enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” the American Psychological Association wrote in a 2009 report on the topic after reviewing studies on the effectiveness of conversion therapies. “The participants in this body of research continued to experience same-sex attractions following [sexual-orientation change efforts]. Compelling evidence of decreased same-sex sexual behavior ... was rare.”

    The SPLC complaint, meanwhile, alleges that the JONAH co-founder Arthur Goldberg told one of the plaintiffs, Benjamin Unger, that “change is absolutely possible,” and that Unger could essentially stop being gay within two to four years.

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  34. Still some people do experience sexual orientation fluidity—a finding based largely on studies of women who have oscillated from lesbian to bisexual to straight—and some conversion therapists use this idea to bolster their claim that treatments can work for those who want to change. In its court filings, JONAH’s lawyers point out that the American Psychological Association’s own report on sexual-orientation change therapy says that, “for some, sexual-orientation identity is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.” They also argue that JONAH’s views on the changeability and causes of homosexuality are just opinions, and differences of opinion can’t be the basis for a fraud case.

    But the fact that some peoples’ sexual preference fluctuates, mental-health professionals say, is not the point: People who seek out conversion therapy often do it because of extreme stigma in their communities, and not because of some intrinsic desire to be straight. The problem is the discrimination, not the sexuality.

    “Do I think that I was “born gay”? I don’t know and I am not sure how important that is,” Levin wrote in an op-ed about his experience. “What is important is that it certainly is not something that I chose or had anything to do with. And I felt immense pressure to somehow change who I was.”

    * * *

    JONAH was formed in 1999 by Elaine Silodor Berk and Goldberg, a former Wall Street banker who served prison time in the 1980s for selling fraudulent municipal bonds. Both are practicing Jews who have gay adult sons.

    They chose the name JONAH, court documents say, “in reference to the Jewish Prophet Jonah from Gath-Heper in Israel, who was sent by God to preach to the non-Israelites in Nineveh; the people repented and changed their ways, and the city was saved from destruction. They believe that the story of the Prophet Jonah will give their clients the hope they need to succeed as well.”

    JONAH representatives say the group’s aim is not to criticize certain lifestyles, but they do say that “many Jews and other individuals cannot recognize all consensual sexual practices as ... spiritually rewarding.” JONAH’s lawyers contend that New Jersey courts should not meddle in what is, in part, a religious matter.

    Not all conversion therapies are religiously motivated, however. Nicholas Cummings, the chief psychologist for Kaiser Permanente from 1959 to 1979 and a former APA president, was one of the champions of the 1975 APA resolution that stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. However, he has also said his practice saw 18,000 gay patients over the years, and “hundreds” changed their sexual orientation. Downing, the life coach who allegedly forced Levin to strip for him, had a career in the arts, according to court files, before realizing “that he was particularly talented at various modalities within [sexual-orientation change efforts] due to his background in theater and music.”

    Some conversion therapy practices appear to be driven by the (scientifically inaccurate) view that homosexuality is caused by overly strong attachments to women or insufficient platonic male friendships. In the complaint, Downing is accused of asking Unger to beat an effigy of his mother with a tennis racket, “as though killing her.” Unger was also allegedly encouraged to spend more time naked with his father. (Gallagher, JONAH’s chairwoman, would not comment on Downing’s tactics, saying she is not a therapist.)

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  35. Chris Doyle is a licensed counselor and the director of the International Healing Foundation, a Maryland organization that works on all issues related to sexual orientation, including conversion. He was also going to be an expert witness in the JONAH trial until the judge barred him and several others because they planned to bring scientifically refuted testimony, The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

    Doyle said he uses mostly experiential, talk, and cognitive-behavioral therapies in his practice and doesn’t “necessarily” use the approaches Downing is accused of employing. It’s not the media’s place to analyze therapy techniques, he said, before adding that the undressing session “was actually fine for what [Downing] was trying to do.”

    Doyle, who considers himself a former homosexual, is now married with children. He was a sensitive child, he said, and he had trouble bonding with his father. He was later abused by an older female cousin, and “that caused me have a disdain toward women because of the abuse.”

    “When I resolved those issues in my early 20s ... my same-sex attractions really went away,” he said. “I realized that for some people, this wasn’t simply just something that they had to accept, they could actually work through these issues if they wanted to and go on to live a heterosexual life. I don’t have any disdain for the LGBT community, but I chose a different path.”

    Most of his clients who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions are male, and are “almost always over-attached to their mothers. That's created wounding for them. They want to be like regular guys, but they don't feel like regular guys,” he said.

    Doyle believes these men sexualize their need for friendship with other men, and that he can help them with this just like a therapist might help a patient overcome her depression. “We’re helping the client get those ... unmet love needs and healthy same-sex relationships that aren’t sexual,” he said. “When they do that, they experience freedom, they experience who they really are.”

    * * *

    The medical establishment is not sympathetic to perspectives like these. In addition to the APA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and other groups have all condemned conversion therapies. The APA encourages practitioners not to try to change their patients’ sexual orientation, “keeping in mind the medical dictum to First do no Harm”

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  36. Though its proponents boast success stories conversion therapy can be extremely damaging: In videos about his experience, Levin has said that when he didn’t change, he blamed himself. Unger was later treated for severe depression, SPLC lawyers say. Levin attempted suicide by swallowing pills.

    The fact that several states have curtailed the use of conversion therapies for minors suggests that officials are increasingly acknowledging the power of mental healthcare: that unproven psychotherapy techniques can be be just as injurious as untested blood-pressure pills.

    “The reason these approaches went unnoticed for a long time was the belief that there was no harm in trying,” said Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who helped write the APA’s reports on conversion therapies. But “if you talk to the so-called ex-gay survivors, they can tell you about the type of harm they experienced, the harmful things that the therapists say to them.”

    Drescher’s view on JONAH is unambiguous: “They prey on desperate religious people. Their market [is] people who are confused, unhappy, and who will try anything because they are desperate.”

    Herek said that some people who go through conversion interventions might be able to suppress their same-sex attraction, at least temporarily, but they generally aren’t able to make themselves long for the opposite sex. “They just lose their sense of sexual attraction to anyone,” he said.

    He recommends that people who have trouble accepting their homosexuality instead work to integrate their true sexual orientation more fully into their overall sense of self.

    Randy Thomas, a former executive vice president with the ex-gay Christian network Exodus International, now says he wished he had never tried to change his sexual orientation. Exodus disbanded in 2013 amid growing skepticism among its own leaders that sexuality conversion is possible.

    After coming out as gay at 19, and converting to Christianity five years later, Thomas spent many years working for Exodus as a self-described “poster boy” for the idea that gay people can become straight. This past January, he came out as gay once again. (“I still love Jesus, and he still loves me,” he told me recently.)

    To gay people who are considering conversion therapy, Thomas now says, “spare yourself the shame, pain, and condemnation. If you're LGBTQ, never buy into the lie that God is angry with you. God is there for you; he loves you. You are beloved by him, and anyone who can't see the inherent worth of who you are, just walk away.”


  37. Jury in groundbreaking SPLC suit finds gay ‘conversion’ program is unconscionable and fraud

    Southern Poverty Law Center June 25, 2015

    In a landmark victory, a state jury in New Jersey found today that a “conversion therapy” program offering services it claimed could change clients from gay to straight was fraudulent and unconscionable.

    The jury ordered JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), the group’s founder and a counselor to pay $72,400 to compensate five plaintiffs for fees they paid to the group and for mental health counseling one of the plaintiffs needed afterward.

    The SPLC filed the lawsuit – Michael Ferguson, et al., v. JONAH – in 2012. Brought under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, the case was the first of its kind nationally. It was heard before Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr.

    SPLC co-counsel were attorneys from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC.

    The case was more about exposing consumer fraud than obtaining monetary damages.

    “This verdict is a monumental moment in the movement to ensure the rights and acceptance of LGBT people in America,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie – that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work but can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.

    “We’re proud of our clients, who survived these so-called treatments and had the courage to call to account the people who defrauded them with their false promises.”

    The jury ruled that JONAH, its founder, Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud law by claiming their counseling services could cure clients of being gay. The plaintiffs are three young men who were harmed by the practice and two parents who paid fees to JONAH for their sons’ therapy, which cost $100 for weekly, individual sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions.

    During the trial, men who had participated in the program testified to the same pattern of feeling joy at discovering a program that would purportedly turn them straight only to endure disappointment, frustration and depression as it failed. JONAH’s treatment strained family relationships for some men, leading them to blame family members for their sexual orientation.

    “I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy,” plaintiff Benjamin Unger testified. “It was very harmful. It made me very depressed, and people have a right to know about it.”

    Unger was told that one of the reasons he was gay was because he was too close to his mother. In one exercise, he was encouraged to beat a pillow – representing his mother – with a tennis racket.

    “I had a huge gash and my hands were actually bleeding from hitting it so much,” said Unger, now 27. “People were standing around me and supporting me and kind of egging me on and … that was probably the worst thing I did in the JONAH program as far as how it affected me and my family and how it affected me emotionally.”

    Unger described how he grew to resent his mother as a result of the treatment, stopped speaking to her for three months and even moved out of the house they shared.

    continued below

  38. He eventually quit the program, but depression and anxiety left him virtually bedridden for three months. Unger later received treatment for the trauma from a clinical psychologist

    ‘Worse than snake oil’

    Conversion therapy has been discredited by virtually every major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organization. Many who have undergone the therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

    In a landmark pre-trial ruling on Feb. 5, the judge excluded several leading conversion therapy proponents, including Joseph Nicolosi and Christopher Doyle, from testifying as defense experts. Bariso ruled their opinions were based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder.

    In a blistering opinion that garnered international media attention, Bariso wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”

    According to testimony at the trial, one plaintiff was encouraged to undress and stand naked in a circle. At other times, a JONAH counselor encouraged three of the male plaintiffs to undress in front of a mirror and touch their genitals while he watched. Group activities were organized for clients to re-enact past abuse and take part in violent role-play exercises. Male counselors also engaged in and advocated “healthy touch” with young men, including prolonged cuddling sessions.

    “This is not legitimate therapy,” testified Lee Beckstead, a psychologist with expertise on sexual orientation change efforts and a member of an American Psychological Association task force that examined them. “It’s outdated … it’s confusing, it’s misleading. It’s even reckless. And it’s harmful. It’s worse than snake oil.”

    Beckstead testified that “healthy touch” is “a form of sexual abuse” and that nudity in one-on-one counseling sessions is “unconscionable.” He described one exercise that involved shouting homophobic slurs at a client as “sadistic."

    Plaintiff Chaim Levin had just turned 18 when he was encouraged to participate in “healthy touch” exercises in which participants were cradled like a baby by other men.

    “It just didn’t seem like – for me, it didn’t feel right,” Levin, now 26, testified.

    He was eventually coaxed into participating.

    “I believe that what happened to me and my co-plaintiffs was very wrong,” Levin testified. “And I also think that – I think that the world needs to understand what conversion therapy actually is.”

    ‘A really good salesman’

    continued below

  39. Throughout the trial SPLC attorneys demonstrated how JONAH clients and their family members were led to believe the program was based on science when it was not. It was also shown how Goldberg, the program’s founder, was called “doctor” when the only degrees he held for such a title was a law degree – a juris doctorate – and an honorary doctorate in the humanities. Before founding JONAH, Goldberg was disbarred as an attorney after being convicted of and serving time in prison for felony mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the federal government.

    Bella Levin, Chaim’s mother, testified about the hope she felt after speaking with Goldberg.

    “And I remember hanging up from him, and I told my husband, this is amazing,” she testified. “This – this guy is going to save Chaim. This guy is … this is just great. And I remember, like saying, whatever it costs, whatever we have to do, he has to go to this program, because he – he has it.”

    She paid about $4,000 toward her son’s treatment only to watch him struggle with a roller coaster of emotions.

    “It was a mistake on my part that I did not question [Goldberg] too much,” she testified. “I mean, he was just a really good salesman. He just knew how to tell me that – that he had therapies that would work, that – that would change him.”

    When asked on the witness stand why she joined the SPLC lawsuit, the mother of six gave a succinct answer.

    “[Goldberg] lied,” she said. “He promised me something that was just so far from the truth.”

    Sheldon Bruck, whose mother is a plaintiff, also believed he had found a solution when he discovered JONAH – describing it as akin to finding a “golden ticket” to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. When he spoke to Goldberg, he was encouraged even more.

    “And he told me everything that I wanted to hear and everything that I hoped for,” he testified. “So I thought like I just broke some sort of stellar curse that I have on top of me. I was so excited.”

    He eventually realized what other JONAH clients discovered.

    “I ended it because I realized that it wasn’t a legitimate form of therapy and I couldn’t – it didn’t make any sense. … I came to realize that I was being taken advantage of and that my sexuality is not something that is able to be changed,” he testified.

    Sending a message

    In addition to paying treble damages to compensate the plaintiffs for the fees they paid for therapy, the defendants were ordered to pay attorneys’ fees.

    The judge will consider whether to cancel JONAH’s business license, among other remedies, in the coming weeks.

    But the verdict means even more for the SPLC’s clients: It means exposing conversion therapy practices to the light of day. It means preventing other people struggling with their sexual orientation from being lured into a dangerous world of junk science that can cost them their health, their peace of mind and their savings.

    The case has helped spark legislation in Congress to protect consumers from conversion therapy nationwide. New Jersey, California, Oregon and the District of Columbia have already enacted laws to protect minors from conversion therapy practiced by licensed therapists, and a number of states are considering similar laws.

    “Seven years ago, I was subjected to abusive, harmful practices by JONAH that I thought would remain secret and unnoticed despite how destructive they were – in part because they thrived on this secrecy in their so-called therapy practice,” Chaim Levin said after the verdict. “Now the world knows about their destructive, refuted practices.”


  40. SPLC suit forces New Jersey group to cease bogus ‘conversion therapy’ program, pay damages

    Southern Poverty Law Center, December 18, 2015

    A gay-to-straight “conversion therapy” provider found by a New Jersey jury to have violated the state’s consumer fraud protections will permanently cease operations and dissolve its corporate entity as part of a settlement that precludes an appeal of a jury’s verdict in the landmark lawsuit.

    New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. granted a permanent injunction today after an agreement by both parties requiring JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) to shut down entirely and prohibiting founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing from engaging in any form of conversion therapy commerce in New Jersey.

    The jury in the case found unanimously on June 25 that by offering services it claimed could turn gay people straight, JONAH committed consumer fraud and engaged in unconscionable commercial practices.

    The therapy, based on the idea that LGBT people are sick and need to be cured, has been denounced by every major U.S. medical and mental health association. Not only can it be psychologically damaging, the American Psychological Association has noted that it promotes a climate of bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community.

    “JONAH’s conversion therapy program harmed countless LGBT people and their families,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “JONAH peddled discredited, pseudo-scientific treatments to people who weren’t sick, who weren’t broken, and who needed nothing but love and support.

    “The end of JONAH signals that conversion therapy, however packaged, is fraudulent – plain and simple. 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.”

    New York-based Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and New Jersey-based Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC served as SPLC’s co-counsel in the case, the first case in the nation to challenge conversion therapy under a state consumer fraud act.

    “JONAH is finally being held accountable for the untold harm it inflicted on hundreds of people. I’m proud to see an organization that preyed on and exploited vulnerable young men and women shutting its doors,” said James Bromley, partner at co-counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

    The SPLC filed the lawsuit – Michael Ferguson, et al., v. JONAH – in 2012. The case has reinforced state efforts to ban the practice and inspired consumer fraud-based federal legislation. President Obama in April publicly supported a nationwide ban against conversion therapy.

    Under the settlement, the defendants will pay the full $72,400 in damages awarded by the jury to compensate the plaintiffs for the fees they paid to JONAH and for remedial mental health counseling for one plaintiff. The proposed judgment includes a $3.5 million award of legal fees. 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.

    continued below

  41. JONAH will be required to shut down all of its operations within 30 days after the order is entered, and its websites and online listservs must be removed. JONAH also will have to liquidate its assets and permanently dissolve as a corporate entity within six months.

    “Defendants are permanently enjoined from engaging, whether directly or through referrals, in any therapy, counseling, treatment or activity that has the goal of changing, affecting or influencing sexual orientation, ‘same-sex attraction’ or ‘gender wholeness’ or any other equivalent term,” in New Jersey, including advertising or promoting the practice, the order states. Downing must stop providing conversion therapy to current clients within 30 days of the order.”

    The plaintiffs – three young men and two mothers – lauded the development.

    “I’m hopeful that this will be an important step in making sure that no one is ever harmed by conversion therapy again,” said Chaim Levin, who was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family and entered JONAH’s program at 18. “I want to thank my attorneys and parents for supporting me and my mom for bravely testifying. It wasn’t easy on her, but she made me proud to be her son.”

    His mother, Bella, paid about $4,000 for treatment and testified about JONAH’s harm and false promises. “It was a mistake on my part that I did not question Goldberg too much,” she testified at trial. “He was just a really good salesman.”

    Michael Ferguson, who is from a Mormon community, said JONAH’s destructive practices affected him deeply. “Gay conversion therapy stole years from my life, and nearly stole my life,” Ferguson said after the settlement. “My hope is that others can be spared the unneeded harm that comes from the lies the defendants and those like them spread.”

    As part of the settlement, JONAH will not appeal the jury verdict reached by seven jurors after a three-week trial in June that drew national and international media attention.

    In a seminal pre-trial ruling on Feb. 5, Bariso excluded several leading conversion therapy proponents, including Joseph Nicolosi and Christopher Doyle, from testifying as defense experts. Ruling that their opinions were based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder, Bariso wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”

    Testimony at the trial revealed the JONAH program’s bizarre and abusive techniques, which included instructing men to undress and instructing one plaintiff to touch his genitals in a private counseling session. JONAH orchestrated violent role-play exercises, encouraging clients to beat effigies of their mothers, who were sometimes blamed for their sons’ homosexuality. Male counselors advocated “healthy touch” sessions that included prolonged cuddling. JONAH’s tactics alienated some clients from their families and caused them to blame themselves or family members for their sexual orientation.


  42. Gay conversion therapists find safe haven in Israel


    JERUSALEM (AP) — A leading American Jewish group promoting therapy it said could turn gays to heterosexuals was ordered shut in December by a New Jersey court, amid growing efforts in the U.S. to curb the generally discredited practice. But therapists with ties to the shuttered group say they have found a haven for their work in Israel.

    Israel's Health Ministry advises against so-called "gay conversion" or "reparative" therapy, calling it scientifically dubious and potentially dangerous, but no law limits it. In Israel, practitioners say their services are in demand, mostly by Orthodox Jewish men trying to reduce their same-sex attractions so they can marry women and raise a traditional family according to their conservative religious values.

    Clients also include Jewish teenagers from the U.S. and other countries who attend post-high school study programs at Orthodox seminaries in Israel. Half of all such students attend seminaries that require youth who admit to having homosexual feelings to see reparative therapy practitioners, according to the Yeshiva Inclusion Project, a group that counsels gay prospective students.

    Proponents in Israel say therapy does not "convert" clients, but boosts self-esteem and masculinity, which they say can reduce homosexuality. In Israel, therapists say there is greater acceptance of their work than in the U.S.

    "Since there is such a strong religious presence here, and I think political correctness isn't as prevalent . there's more openness about it, about this kind of therapy here," said Dr. Elan Karten, a U.S.-trained psychologist and Orthodox Jew who has treated about 100 people with homosexual attractions since he opened his Jerusalem practice eight years ago.

    Some states in the U.S. have banned such therapy for minors. JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, was shut for violating New Jersey consumer fraud laws by claiming therapy could "heal" homosexuality.

    An estimated 20 to 30 licensed psychologists and social workers and 50 non-licensed therapists practice some form of conversion therapy in Israel, said Rabbi Ron Yosef of the Orthodox gay organization Hod, which calls for legislation against such therapy. Gays in Israel who contacted JONAH were referred to some of these therapists.

    "I'm extremely concerned," said Chaim Levin, a former client of JONAH in the U.S. and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against it in New Jersey. "It's exporting hatred and junk science to Israel. People need to know."

    Leading medical organizations in the U.S. say there is no proof sexual orientation change efforts are effective, and that therapy can reinforce self-hatred, depression and self-harm.

    The Israel Psychological Association reached similar conclusions in a 2011 position paper, which Israel's Health Ministry adopted in late 2014. But the Association also endorsed a claim practitioners make, that "political correctness" likely prevents the funding and publication of studies examining the therapy's potential effectiveness.

    At least four men's support groups meet weekly in Jerusalem, said Jerusalem psychotherapist Adam Jessel, who has worked with hundreds of people looking to overcome their homosexuality. Some Israeli organizations also promote therapy.

    The U.S. group People Can Change runs a seminar in Israel, the U.S. and Europe called Journey Into Manhood, which it says helps men "resolve unwanted homosexual attractions." About 50 men participated in a seminar last month at a confidential location in northern Israel.

    continued below

  43. One 23 year old Orthodox Jewish student from the U.S. said the retreat "was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I feel like I've actually started living my life instead of just surviving it." He spoke anonymously because he said publicizing his homosexuality would hurt his chances for marriage and acceptance in his Orthodox community.

    He said he signed a confidentiality agreement barring him from discussing seminar activities so as not to ruin the experience for future participants.

    But a 20-year-old Orthodox Jew from the U.S who attended the retreat in Israel in 2013 called some of its activities "inappropriate." He said participants were encouraged to engage in what was called "healthy touch" exercises, including one called the "motorcycle position," in which a man would sit on the floor with legs open and another would sit behind him in the same position with arms wrapped around his torso. People Can Change says such exercises are meant to desexualize touch between men.

    At a follow-up support group meeting in Jerusalem facilitated by a Journey Into Manhood volunteer, African-style music was played, and men were blindfolded and told to strip if they wished, he said. The facilitator, speaking anonymously because he said his group sessions are confidential, said the exercise was designed to help men become comfortable with themselves without others seeing them and that some participants removed only their shirts.

    "I look back on it with horror," the participant said of his years in reparative therapy. At the time, he said, group activities gave him a supportive community, but therapists led him to believe something was wrong with him, which he now rejects. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he said his father, an Orthodox rabbi, would face controversy if his son publicly identified as gay.

    In recent years, organizations of gay Orthodox Jews have formed in Israel, advocating acceptance of homosexuality and rallying against conversion therapies. Today, many rabbis in Israel shun the therapies and fewer gays seek them, Yosef of Hod said.

    Neta Patrick, a lawyer, co-authored a forthcoming legal article to encourage litigation in Israel against the practice. She believes there are grounds to strip professionals of their licenses if they do not educate clients about the Israeli government positions on the therapy.

    Karten says he tells patients he cannot guarantee therapy will succeed, but that it is not a routine part of his therapy to discuss with them the government positions.

    "Let's say someone's coming to me, and they're religious. They could open the position statement of the Israel Psychological Association, or they could open the Torah," he said. "They're going to probably look at what the IPA says and say, 'That's nice, but I still have this to contend with. I have dreams to be a father and a husband.'"

    Karten pointed to a drawer in his office where he keeps wedding invitations from former clients - "a handful," he said.


  44. Exposing the Big Lie

    Orthodox Jews Must Denounce Gay 'Conversion Therapy'

    by Michael J. Salamon Haaretz February 09, 2016

    Gay Orthodox Jews face tremendous pressures to deny or hide their sexuality, making them easy prey for the missionaries of JONAH’s useless and dangerous attempts to ‘convert’ them to heterosexuality.

    Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), an organization devoted to helping boost “self-esteem and masculinity” to reduce homosexual inclinations, was recently forced to shut its doors in the U.S. after a trial in which it was determined that its operations were little more than “consumer fraud.”

    That apparently has not stopped JONAH, specifically designed to operate within the Orthodox Jewish world, from operating its brand of conversion therapy: it has recently made a new home in Israel.

    This is in spite of the fact that there have been dozens of peer reviewed research articles indicating that conversion therapy, an amalgam of so-called therapeutic interventions allegedly designed and targeted to convert homosexual individuals to a heterosexual lifestyle, are useless at best and more likely, dangerous. Despite one very biased, limited and discredited study, the overwhelming proof, as substantiated by all the major health and mental health professional organizations worldwide, shows that undergoing conversion therapy can lead to a host of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidality and more.

    Undaunted, there are still adherents who insist that a person born gay can become hetero if they simply follow their charade of conversion therapy. Some advocates continue to bemoan the loss of the JONAH program in the U.S., not for the pain that conversion therapy caused participants, but for the alleged benefits of a totally unsound program, and they persist in claiming it helps Orthodox Jews in Israel to 'convert' to a heterosexual lifestyle.

    Conversion therapy believers tend to be Orthodox, and use religious doctrine to support their positions decrying scientific evidence disproving their efforts as false and misleading. They often conflate religious rules against the practice of homosexuality with the desire to “cure” something that is simply not curable.

    Homosexuality according to halakha [Jewish religious law] is a to'aivah [an 'abomination']. That puts a tremendous burden on religious people who are gay to either deny their sexuality or hide it if they wish to remain within the Orthodox community, whether Modern, Yeshivish or Hareidi. To'aivah, however, does not mean that sexuality can be converted. If an individual is homosexual that is not a disease to be fixed but a life issue to be dealt with. But not for those in the broader Orthodox religious world who see a mission in gay conversion.

    For the sake of argument, though, in terms of assessing the 'efficacy' of conversion therapy and whether it's an answer for the dilemma of gay Orthodox Jews, let’s put aside the research evidence indicating that conversion therapy causes mental harm. For some people it is much easier and more meaningful to put aside data and statistics and take a simple look at outcomes.

    Performing an outcome evaluation is not quite as complex as setting up a study with control groups and, when possible, randomization. To follow outcome you simply track the process over time to determine if the people you have worked with achieve and maintain their goals. There is no direct need to compare them to others to determine statistical significance on things like rates of mental illness. Outcome analysis is a relatively effective technique that yields data which can, after the fact, be compared to other groups if there is a need. It is hard to argue with outcomes when they are simply a follow up of information about people over a period of time.

    continued below

  45. An easy outcome study for conversion therapy would be to evaluate if, following the so-called treatment, a person can live a heterosexual life. That information now exists.

    Outcome data of close to 2,000 individuals who had undergone conversion therapy and subsequently married indicates that over 60% admitted to cheating on their spouse with a homosexual liaison some as often as every week, or month, others only once a year. Regardless of the frequency this indicates the failure of conversion therapy, compounded by the fact that many of these marriages are now ending in divorce. These numbers are staggering. More significantly, they put truth to the lie about the efficacy of conversion therapy.

    This finding offers an important lesson beyond homosexuality and conversion therapy. Outcome studies offer a methodology to address the inviolability of truth and how we can arrive at it within the context of religion and reality.

    This is not a question of cynicism or mindless criticism. If we know that something is not real, does not work or is harmful why should we allow it to be perpetuated? When someone tells me, for example, that they know of a fail-safe shadchan [matchmaker] I ask for outcome information. A foolproof or fail-safe shadchan would be someone who had good outcomes. We could set up a study of shadchanim and compare who makes more matches or we could do an outcome evaluation and see how many of the matches made result in lasting marriages. If a shadchan’s system works, outcome information would validate it.

    It was not that long ago that I first publicly presented data on the frequency of sexual abuse in our community. I was told by some that my data was inaccurate. Not unlike the conversion therapy issue, I was also told that in a religious world there is no abuse. Some continue to suggest that abuse is an extremely rare occurrence heightened only by attention seekers. Yet, as more individuals feel freer to report the abuse they suffered the outcome data is incontrovertible. Abuse does exist in all of our communities.

    Instead of denying or obfuscating to support an erroneous belief we should use outcome information that is available. It is a cruel mistake to foster inaccuracies on those who are harmed by them. Reality and belief need not differ if there is a compassionate approach that is supported by reliability and honesty. The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Orthodox organization of rabbis, has stated “individuals with homosexual inclinations should be treated with the care and concern appropriate to all human beings. As Rabbis we recognize the acute and painful challenges faced by homosexual Jews in their quest to remain connected and faithful to God and tradition. We urge those Orthodox Jews with homosexual tendencies to seek counsel from their Rabbis. Equally, we urge all Rabbis to show compassion to all those who approach them.”

    The interpretation of halakha requires a compassion that is based on the reality of the individual. We can only hope that this compassion is true and born out by subsequent action. Forcing someone into “therapy” that is fraudulent and potentially deleterious, a marriage that is farcical or excluding them from their community is heartless.

    Dr. Michael J. Salamon is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the author of numerous articles and books, most recently “Abuse in the Jewish Community” (Urim Publications).


  46. SPLC others file federal consumer fraud complaint against conversion therapy group

    Southern Poverty Law Center February 24, 2016

    A Virginia-based group is committing consumer fraud by offering services it claims can convert people from gay to straight – deceptive practices that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must stop, according to a federal complaint the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups filed with the FTC today.

    The complaint describes how People Can Change (PCC) has offered these services known as “conversion therapy” despite the lack of scientific evidence to support their claims. It urges the FTC to investigate the group under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts and practices.

    “Conversion therapy is a harmful scam based on junk science – end of story,” said Scott McCoy, SPLC senior staff attorney. “Groups such as People Can Change are nothing more than modern-day snake oil salesmen. They prey upon vulnerable people with bogus claims that they can change someone’s sexual orientation.”

    Conversion therapy has been discredited by virtually every major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organization. Many who have undergone such therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

    Last year in a landmark SPLC trial, a jury unanimously found New Jersey conversion therapy provider JONAH had violated the state’s consumer fraud law. Despite a jury finding that JONAH had “engaged in unconscionable commercial practices” – including referring clients to PCC for services – PCC continues to operate in largely the same manner as before the JONAH trial, according to the complaint.

    During the trial, JONAH clients described how they endured disappointment, frustration, and depression as conversion therapy services failed. JONAH’s so-called treatment strained family relationships for some men, leading them to blame family members for their sexual orientation.

    “I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy,” plaintiff Benjamin Unger testified at the June trial. “It was very harmful. It made me very depressed, and people have a right to know about it.”

    Four states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors. The governor of New York has used executive action to adopt regulations to protect young people from conversion therapy. U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., has introduced federal legislation aimed at eliminating the practice.

    The SPLC filed the complaint with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Law firm Cooley LLP served as counsel to the groups for the filing.


  47. Gay Mormon teen chronicles nightmare of conversion therapy in Saving Alex

    by Jana Riess | Flunking Sainthood (blog) Feb 29, 2016

    Alex Cooper was fifteen years old when she came out to her parents as gay. Up to that point, much about her California childhood was typical. The youngest of six children in a staunch Mormon family, she had gotten into some trouble with her parents, but until she identified herself as a lesbian, they allowed her to continue living at home.

    Not after that. “They flipped out,” she says now, six years and many tears later. “I mean, I expected them to flip out, but my dad couldn’t look at me, and my mom couldn’t even talk to me. I just felt I was such a huge disappointment. They cried a lot.”

    Then they kicked her out of the house with no money and no plan.

    That was, as she explains in her new memoir Saving Alex, releasing tomorrow from HarperOne, when her real nightmare began.

    Alex’s parents stayed in contact through another family in the ward, and communicated that they were going to pick her up and take her to visit her grandparents in St. George, Utah, for a while until things calmed down. Fair enough, she thought. She went along with this and was surprised to find that when they arrived in St. George, they pulled up at another house entirely and her parents announced that this was where Alex was going to be staying.

    “They were total strangers,” Alex says. “My parents just signed over custody to them in front of me. And I knew that my parents had never met these people before.”

    This was to be “conversion therapy,” an ad hoc program intended to turn Alex into a heterosexual through shame and punishment. She had to surrender her phone and was forbidden to have contact with her family or anyone in the outside world. At first she thought she was going to be able to run away with little difficulty, but to no avail.

    Instead, she was subjected to routine punishments like “the wall,” where she was forced to stand at attention for hours in full view of the other members of the household “so that I could concentrate and focus on what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do to fix it.”

    While she stood there, her captors would hurl insults at her like “dyke” and tell her she would never fit into the Plan of Salvation as a gay person.

    “They had this weird idea of the Plan of Salvation, which wasn’t what I learned growing up,” says Alex. (And which is not accepted Mormon belief.) “They said that if I didn’t get into the Celestial Kingdom with my family that a copy of me would be made so my parents wouldn’t have to suffer. My parents would just have a copy of me. I would be forgotten.”

    continued below

  48. Feeling despair and having no way out, Alex did the only thing she could think of: on her sixteenth birthday, as a present to herself, she attempted suicide. “I thought if I didn’t die, they would have to take me to the hospital,” she explains. “But they didn’t.” In fact, the Sialeses didn’t even tell Alex’s parents about the suicide attempt until much later.

    They did take her to see the local Mormon bishop, who did not call the authorities. “He told me that he knew that they had a certain way of disciplining their kids, and it seemed to work.” Alex was held against her will for ten months.

    Today, she is telling her story in the hopes that other people will understand that conversion therapy is incredibly damaging. “I want parents to read this, hopefully parents of LGBTQ youth, to understand that conversion therapy is not a helpful thing,” she says.

    As for her own parents, they have had a 180-degree turnaround. “My parents are awesome right now,” she says. “They have apologized, and feel really guilty about it. They are super-supportive. They just want to help. I live with my girlfriend and we Facetime my parents probably twice a week.”

    Now she lives in Portland and works at nonprofit where a lot of LGBT kids in crisis seek help.

    “Luckily the resources in Portland for LGBT kids are a lot better than the resources in St. George, Utah. Some of these kids are able to find a place where they can be accepted and find jobs and housing.”

    As for religion, Alex is taking a break right now. “I’ve completely removed myself from contact with the Mormon Church,” she says. “I had a lot of hope that the Church was progressing, but with [the LGBT policy change in November], I just want nothing to do with the Church. I know how unsafe it is for LGBTQ youth in Mormonism, but especially now since November. It’s not going to get any better, which is terrifying.”

    These sentiments are echoed by her co-author and friend, Joanna Brooks, who helped Alex to write and publish her story. “I think it’s important to be clear that as a community, we are not making it better for LGBTQ youth who are LDS,” says Brooks. “There are very real costs to not making it better. And no Mormon youth is disposable. That’s not what the Plan of Salvation is about. No one should be subjected to what Alex was subjected to because they don’t fit our mold.”

    “So it’s time for a difficult conversation within Mormonism, and it’s nerve-racking and brave for Alex to be willing to offer her story. I’ve told her, too, that as she tells her story she’s going to meet so many people along the way who will stand with her and will learn from her and benefit from her courage.”


  49. New book details LDS teen's 'humiliating' gay conversion therapy in Utah

    BY DANIEL WOODRUFF, KUTV Salt Lake City, MARCH 15TH 2016

    (KUTV) Alex Cooper's memories of standing against a wall -- wearing a backpack full of rocks -- are still fresh.

    "I did not know how many hours I had been standing there, quietly trying to manage the pain by shifting my weight from foot to foot," the 21-year-old writes in her new book, "Saving Alex," published this month.

    The book details Cooper's eight-month long experience with conversion therapy at a house in St. George. Her LDS parents sent her there in 2010 after she came out as gay.

    "Your family doesn't want you. God has no place for people like you in His plan," she remembers the couple who lived at the house telling her as she stood at the wall.

    Cooper said the couple told her multiple times she was there because she was gay, and the husband-and-wife duo was trying to change her sexuality.

    It's a practice Cooper, who was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, describes as "exhausting and humiliating." She said it needs to stop.

    "It's like sending you to therapy to change your eye color," she said in an interview Tuesday with 2News after a speech at Weber State University. "It's not going to work. What it's going to do is damage you."

    During her time at the house, Cooper writes, she attempted suicide once and tried to escape several times -- always with dire consequences. In one case, she said, the man who lived at the home quickly punished her.

    "I came to my feet in front of him," Cooper writes. "He made a fist and punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. I doubled over and choked for breath."

    Eventually, the teen was allowed to attend Snow Canyon High School and, through a fellow gay student, was put in touch with Salt Lake attorney Paul C. Burke.

    "When she first called me, I was floored," Burke said.

    Over the next year, Burke represented Cooper in the juvenile court system, eventually helping her win the right to live as an openly gay teenager.

    "The court order allowed Alex to live her life authentically," said Burke. "It allowed her to rebuild her relationship with her parents."

    Recently, Cooper said, her mother apologized.

    "They thought they were doing the best thing for me," said Cooper. "I think that's what a lot of parents are under the impression of, that they're doing the best thing for their child."

    She and her lawyer said they're pushing for states -- such as Utah -- to outlaw gay conversion therapy. Several states already ban it for minors.

    Cooper said she is no longer a practicing member of the Mormon faith. 2News asked the church about its stance on conversion therapy.

    "The Church denounces any therapy that subjects an individual to abusive practices," said LDS spokesman Eric Hawkins.

    "We hope those who experience the complex realities of same-sex attraction find compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors and church members."


  50. Southern Poverty Law Center Special Report

    QUACKS: 'Conversion Therapists,' the Anti-LGBT Right, and the Demonization of Homosexuality

    by Mark Potok, Senior Fellow May 25, 2016

    In this article

    Executive Summary
    QUACKS: Conversion Therapists in America
    The Experts: JONAH’s ‘Scientific’ Testimony
    The Plaintiffs: Portraits of Three Survivors
    A Timeline: Homophobia and ‘Reparative Therapy’
    Conversion Therapy: The Groups
    Conversion Therapy: An Interview
    Download PDF

    This is a report about junk science and some of the people who propagate it. It is not about silly, perhaps amusing theories about ESP or life on the moon or even purported miracle cures for cancer. The “science” examined here actively harms people, leading with grim regularity to suicide, depression and an array of self-destructive behaviors. It demeans, defames and defrauds human beings, typically at their most vulnerable moments. And, as if that weren’t enough, it regularly lays the blame for the alleged malady of homosexuality at the feet of gay people’s parents, despite the fact that they are wholly innocent.

    Executive Summary

    Will standing in a circle of naked men deep in the woods turn gay men straight? Is disrobing in front of a mirror alone with your therapist and then touching “your masculinity” a cure for homosexuality? Does beating a pillow representing your mother really help develop “healthy” relationships with other men?

    The men and women who people this industry known as “conversion,” “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapists are like modern-day phrenologists, the “experts” beloved by the Nazis who thought they could identify inferior human beings by measuring their subjects’ skulls. They employ theories that have been thoroughly debunked by virtually all relevant medical associations. They cite bizarre studies that were shot down decades ago as key documents. They use techniques that were described in court by one expert as “worse than snake oil.” They are quacks.

    Many of them are doubtless sincere. Some describe their own struggles with “unwanted same-sex attractions.” But sincere or not, the promotion of conversion therapy has a cynical side. If being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is merely a chosen behavior, one that can be “fixed” with the right mental health treatment, then criticizing LGBT people for their sexual choices is akin to simply criticizing bad behavior. Unlike attacking someone for their skin color, reparative therapists can condemn the gay “lifestyle” and still claim that they are not LGBT-hating bigots.

    The real science is perfectly clear. A consensus of the vast majority of psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors and their professional organizations agree that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality. Likewise, they condemn reparative therapy and other attempts to change sexual orientation.

    continued below

  51. This report is built around revelations that emerged from a lawsuit that was tried in New Jersey last year. Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other attorneys, several gay plaintiffs sued Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), under a state consumer fraud law.

    The case did not go well for JONAH. The judge in the case barred almost all testimony from the six experts proffered by the defendants, saying that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it instead is outdated and refuted.” In the end, the plaintiffs won a hands down victory and JONAH went out of business. But in depositions and the trial itself, the creepy world of reparative therapy was laid bare.

    Nude group exercises and one-on-one therapy, re-enactments of past sexual abuse, group cuddling, and counseling blaming parents were normal. Bizarre practices included using anti-LGBT slurs, basketballs and even a pair of oranges representing testicles. Plaintiffs were told that living as gay men would reduce their lifespans, subject them to terrible diseases, and ensure miserable lives.

    The practice of reparative therapy, which one expert estimates has been administered to one in three LGBT youths in recent years, is unconscionable, particularly when it is forced on young people by parents who are often trying to do what they think is best for their children. A number of experts have shown clearly that such therapy is unethical and utterly counterproductive.

    Based on this study, the SPLC recommends several steps:

    At a minimum, states and localities should outlaw the provision of conversion therapy to minors. Already, four states and two cities have passed such laws. Many more are considering similar action.

    Congress should pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act introduced last year by U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) A companion bill was filed in the Senate this April by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The legislation would classify conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act, making it illegal to advertise or sell.

    Professional associations licensing psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors should sanction members who engage in it.

    Insurers, both private and public, should refuse to reimburse claims made by reparative therapists.

    If these things are not done, if the quacks who make up the reparative therapy business are not stopped, lives will continue to be ruined.

    read the report at:

    download the pdf at:

  52. Teen Escapes Pray-Away-the-Gay Boarding School After Relatives Raise Money for Lawyer

    “Reparative therapy” has been labeled by the American Psychological Association as harmful to anyone forced to suffer under it, but especially to minors.

    By Sarah K. Burris / Raw Story June 16, 2016

    Seventeen-year-old Sarah is in the top 10 percent of her class. She runs cross-country and belongs to the National Honor Society and is on the debate team. But when she decided to take her girlfriend to her Texas prom, her parents sent her away for the next year to an East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens hoping they would “pray away the gay.”

    Sarah was taken against her will and tried to escape the facility once, “but was caught by the staff and returned to the facility,” a GoFundMe page set up by her extended family describes, according to BoingBoing.

    The extended family who set up the GoFundMe page acted quickly, hiring an attorney and working to ensure Sarah would be released as soon as possible. They wrote that she was not “allowed phone calls or email or any form of computer communication.” Nor was she allowed visitors. She had no way of knowing that work was being done to save her from the boarding facility.

    So far the page doesn’t include any details about the legal battle, but they assure the donors they will update as soon as they speak to the attorney and to Sarah. Luckily, she was released from the facility, and the GoFundMe has turned off the donations for now as they wait for further instructions about what is needed.

    If she hadn’t been released, Sarah would have been forced to spend the year “isolated in a place where the fact that she is gay is treated as a sin and an illness,” the extended family wrote. “Instead of preparing for college and competing in the state debate tournament, she'[d] be doing forced labor every day and enduring Bible-based ‘therapy’ for her ‘disease.'”

    So-called “reparative therapy” has been labeled by the American Psychological Association as harmful to anyone forced to suffer under it, but especially to minors.

    “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation,” the APA says.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to: