Jury selection begins today in a trial that pits a $340 million left-wing group against a small Jewish non-profit. The result could be the closing of all counseling services in New Jersey that aim to help those with unwanted same-sex desires.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is using New Jersey’s strong Consumer Protection Act to sue a group called Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) that refers men and women to psychological counselors working in the field known as “sexual orientation change efforts.”
SPLC claims JONAH defrauded four men by telling them their same-sex desires could be treated and they could become purely or largely heterosexual. The case is a blueprint for how SPLC intends to go after similar counseling services around the country. Indeed, SPLC and a group called Truth Wins Out, run by gay activist Wayne Besson, have spearheaded a legislative effort to outlaw counseling services to minors with unwanted same-sex attraction. They have been successful in California and New Jersey, which now outlaw the practice.
The case that will be heard over the next month in Superior Court for Hudson County, New Jersey, focuses on the claims of four men who voluntarily approached JONAH to help them with unwanted same-sex attraction. None of them self-identified as gay at the time and each wanted the attractions to end. JONAH, which works from what it calls “Torah values” referred the men to counselors who treated them.
SPLC is now claiming that JONAH made promises that do not comport with scientific findings about the permanence and changeability of homosexuality and that the treatment they underwent was odd. SPLC also claims that homosexual desires do not need to be “cured” and that it’s impossible anyway. All this adds up to consumer fraud, according to the suit that has been going on since 2012.
JONAH founder Arthur Goldberg and his colleagues, along with many noted psychiatrists, hold that same-sex desire is a result of stunted emotional growth and that this can be treated and overcome. They also see it as counter to the will of God and therefore something incumbent on religious believers to overcome.
Representing JONAH is Charles Limandri of the non-profit Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. He told Breitbart News that no non-profit has ever been sued under the New Jersey Consumer Protection Act primarily because non-profits do not make money. The Consumer Protection Act was created to go after shysters getting rich defrauding unwitting customers in the marketplace.
Limandri calls it “a contrived lawsuit put on by gay activists” in order to punish their political opponents.
Moreover, he said JOHAH is entirely voluntary and has no money to speak of. Even so, if JONAH loses, it would be on the hook for all legal expenses of the plaintiffs, which, according to Limandri, are north of $4 million.
At issue is the question of the immutability of homosexuality. If it is inborn and immutable, then therapy to change sexual orientation is a waste of time, money and, homosexuals say, harmful to those who undergo it.
Goldberg and his colleagues insist that same-sex attraction is fluid, that it changes over time, and that it can be changed through therapy. They have formerly gay men who will testify to this at trial.
Limandri and JONAH did seek a summary judgment based on their assertion that homosexuality can be changed and therefore helping someone work to overcome it cannot be fraud, even if it fails. The Judge refused and discovery dragged on at ever mounting legal fees, which, to Limandri, was the point of SPLC’s “law-fare” suit. SPLC is very rich and JONAH is desperately poor.
Goldberg told Breitbart News that in some of the court hearings it would be his lone attorney against a phalanx of high-powered legal talent from SPLC.
After months of expensive discovery, the case has reached jury selection.
Ahead of selection, the Judge has made a number of rulings, some good for JONAH, others favoring SPLC.
The Judge is not allowing a raft of expert witnesses from JONAH–including major figures from psychiatry–because they intended to testify that homosexuality is a “mental disorder.” The American Psychological Association took homosexuality out of its diagnostic manual in 1973 and even though many noted psychiatrists still treat it as such, the Judge ruled that science has settled the matter and no evidence contrary to that can be submitted.
The Judge is allowing JONAH to present evidence that homosexuality is a disorder from a religious point of view and therefore is something that should be treated. Both Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism view homosexuality is a disorder. JONAH will present several witnesses who will attest to the success of treatment provided by JONAH-referred counsellors.
Limandri told Breitbart News that his clients think “homosexuality is not consistent with God’s will” and that individuals have a right to seek treatment for something that displeases God. “The opposition finds that objectionable,” says Limandri.
The Judge ruled in JONAH’s favor on another important point, which is the immutability question. The Judge ruled that science has not settled that question and therefore the argument cannot be heard in court.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Arthur Goldberg and JONAH. They could be on the hook for an amount of money they can never pay off, and in that way, SPLC has already won simply by bringing the suit. The prospect of lengthy and very expensive litigation is enough to scare some out of the practice altogether.
If SPLC does win at trial, these fears will expand exponentially.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse