Anti-gay conversion therapy group defies court order

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Jewish ex-gay organization JONAH was ordered by a New Jersey jury to shut down conversion therapy operations in 2015. The order came after a jury came to a unanimous verdict that the group was guilty of consumer fraud for advertising treatments that supposedly ‘cured’ a gay person. In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a new complaint that JONAH is up and running again under a different name.

Just a few days after the court ordered shut down, JONAH reached out to its supporters, announcing that it was creating the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA) which would provide education on the Noahide laws, including the prohibition “of immorality and forbidden sexual relations.” The ‘new look’ group still has the same co-directors in Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berg. It has the same office and the same phone number as JONAH.

The complaint from the Southern Poverty Law Center exposes how JONAH continues to operate despite the court ordered shut down. This is in violation of New Jersey’s ban on conversion therapies.

When the SPLC sent inquiries to JIFGA, they admitted all JONAH assets had been transferred to the new company. The transfer includied bank accounts and referrals with conversion therapy providers. JIFGA also continued to promote conversion therapy, with Goldberg offering himself as reference for Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals. He providing JONAH’s e-mail and phone number as point of contact. JIFGA also hid its workings behind a crowd-funding group called “Funding Morality.” The group gives access to those it feels are denied rightful access to other such groups.

Funding Morality’s projects include a series of videos promoting and explaining “reparative therapy” for homosexuals. It also uses a documentary about Joseph Nicolosi who is considered the founder of the ex-gay therapy movement. The project uses a memoir by ‘former homosexual’ David DeJacomo who testified on JONAH’s behalf in 2015.

JIFGA has also partnered with the National Task Force for Therapy Equality, which submitted a report to the Federal Trade Commission. In it they claim those who have gone through conversion therapy see a shift in their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso, Jr., who heard JONAH’s case three years ago, refused to allow such evidence to be allowed in court, saying, “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 wake of the ruling in 2015, the court awarded $3.5 million in attorney’s fees and costs to the plaintiffs. The actual amount agreed upon has not been made public. However, now that JONAH has been found to be violating the permanent injunction, the SPLC is asking for the remaining balance of that settlement to be paid out.