Jersey City — When 19-year-old Benji Ungar first showed up at the Jewish counseling service called JONAH in 2007 he wrote on his intake form that he had experienced oral and anal sex with many other males. But — on the witness stand in Hudson County Superior Court — he claimed he was virgin when he filled out those forms.
He also said on his JONAH intake forms that his religion was the most important driver in his life and that he sought treatment with help for behavior in violation of his Orthodox Jewish faith. On the stand he said religion had not been a very important part of his life.
He said on the stand that he had a wonderful relationship with his mother and father but on his intake form he told horrific stories about his mother, that he was terrified of her and that she ran around the house naked and even bathed in front of him.
Despite these contradictions, Ungar and his attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center want jurors to think Ungar was an innocent whose life was ruined by Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing and their misguided and even fraudulent attempts to help him overcome same-sex desire.
In his opening remarks last week, Goldberg’s lawyer Charles Limandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, said much of Ungar’s testimony, and that of his fellow plaintiff’s, are lies.
Ungar is one of four men who went to JONAH for help; who, by their own admission at the time, left satisfied, and subsequently sued Goldberg and psychologist Alan Downing for violating New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act for telling the young men that change was possible with the proper treatment.
Limandri says the young men, none of whom identified as gay at the time, approached JONAH because they found their personal actions and desires did not comport with their deeply held Jewish faith. Limandri said each of them received treatment, though none of them for the proscribed time recommended by JONAH, and each left satisfied with the treatment received. Only later, when Wayne Besen of the LGBT activist group Truth Wins Out recruited them, did they change their stories and claim harm at the hands of Goldberg and his colleagues.
Besen and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leftist political group with $340 million in the bank, are allied in their attempts to close down all counseling for those who want to shed their same-sex attractions or behavior.
During a break in the trial, Limandri told Breitbart News the suit “is not really about little JONAH. It is about closing down all counseling” for those with unwanted same-sex attraction. On the stand Ungar admitted to making a YouTube video for Besen’s group.
Defendant’s are hamstrung by a pretrial ruling by Judge Peter Bariso, who will not allow testimony about same-sex attraction being a “mental disorder” since the psychologist’s guild decided some years ago to take homosexuality out of the diagnostic manual. All that is left to defendants is claiming their counseling is based on the Torah and not on modern means of psychological counseling. This opened Goldberg to an attack by plaintiff attorney Lina Bensman who read off a raft of comments in JONAH literature and emails where Goldberg discussed homosexuality as a psychological disorder.
The heart of the plaintiff’s case is that Goldberg and his colleagues defrauded the young men under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act for making phony claims about their treatment and its success. Limandri points out the Consumer Fraud Act has never been used against a non-profit, like JONAH, and was created to punish unscrupulous fraudsters who fleece the public of their money. Goldberg will testify that none of the young men paid for their treatment.
If the jurors go against Goldberg and Downing, besides whatever fines the court might levy, they would be liable for plaintiff attorney’s fees, estimated now at more than $4 million.
The trial started last week and is expected to last a month.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse