Plaintiff Describes Conspiracy to Bring Down Gay Therapy Group

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Jersey City, NJ—Chaim Levin, who is suing the gay therapy referral service JONAH, comes off in his testimony and his actions as a young man hungry for attention.

Levin admitted under oath that he pushed to be a public spokesman for JONAH. He was forced to admit that this was his idea alone and that JONAH founder Arthur Goldberg said he wasn’t ready for anything like that.

After he left JONAH and began making common cause with gay activists to bring JONAH down, he thanked one activist “for making me a celebrity.” According to his testimony on Wednesday, he pushed himself to get in the New York Times and on network news programs. He even scolded one media outlet for not giving him sufficient coverage.

It also became clear in his testimony how this case—which seeks to close JONAH and all other counseling services that assist those with unwanted same-sex desires—came about.

By his own testimony, Levin was happy with JONAH, with its founder Arthur Goldberg, and with his life coach Alan Dowling. After leaving JONAH’s care, he gave them effusive praise for their work with him, though it seemed to have minimal effect in curbing his same-sex attractions and addiction to gay porn.

It was only after contacting a gay activist group for gay Orthodox Jews that Levin decided he had been harmed under JONAH’s care. Levin met Erez Harrari who was then co-executive director of something called Jewish Queer Youth. Levin told Harrari about some of his experiences in treatment under JONAH, particularly a nudity exercise, and Harrari convinced him it was nothing less than abuse.

Together they contacted Wayne Besen, who runs the group Truth Wins Out which is dedicated to shutting down all therapy for those with unwanted same-sex attraction. Besen almost immediately took Levin public on a YouTube video talking about his experiences with JONAH. It was Besen he thanked for making him a celebrity.

Levin admitted under oath that Besen, Harrari, and he discussed a number of ideas for going after JONAH, including sending someone in undercover pretending to be a client hoping to catch abuse on camera. This was tried and failed.

What they settled on was this novel lawsuit with the Southern Poverty Law Center that charges JONAH with fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act—that JONAH lied to plaintiffs when they said same-sex desire could be changed.

Levin also admitted under oath that he didn’t pay JONAH anything for the help he received. The single check he sent them bounced, which opens the question about how he was harmed monetarily under the Consumer Fraud Act.

Besides Levin, plaintiffs also called an expert witness from the field of psychiatry, Dr. Carol Bernstein from New York University School of Medicine. Bernstein testified that homosexuality was a normal expression of human sexuality that exists on a continuum from gay to straight with bi-sexual in between. She also said it was therefore not a disorder and it was unethical to attempt such a change.

However, under cross-examination by Charles Limandri of the Freedom of Conscience Fund, she testified that homosexuality was in fact fluid and not fixed and that aspects of it could change. She also testified that it’s a person’s right to seek help if they wanted to change unwanted behavior or desire and that it would not be unethical for a mental health professional to assist them.

Bernstein also testified strongly against a method used by the defendants called psycho-drama, a kind of therapeutic play-acting, saying it was unethical, though under cross-examination she had to admit she was not an expert in that field and also did not know it was taught at her own university, and at Columbia where she was an undergrad, and also at Harvard.

Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse.


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