NOM Embraces Group Being Sued For Cruel, Degrading Forms Of "Ex-Gay" Therapy
July 19, 2013 10:35 am ET by Luke Brinker
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) enthusiastically endorsed a group practicing the scientifically discredited practice of "conversion therapy," which ostensibly offers patients a way out of homosexuality.
In a July 18 bulletin to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown championed the cause of the "ex-gay" therapy group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), which currently faces a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Brown's denunciation of the lawsuit made it quite clear that NOM stands behind the group's efforts:
On Friday my friend and hero Chuck LiMandri (who was one of the first to help us get Prop 8 on the ballot!) will be in court in New Jersey, taking on the goliath Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its new militant attempt to misuse consumer fraud laws to attack a small Jewish nonprofit named JONAH that helps observant Jews with same-sex attraction live according to the Bible's laws.
I suspect SPLC picked a Jewish service organization first because they were hoping many of us in the Christian community would ignore it. But whatever you think about sexual orientation, it's wrong to tell people they can't ask for help to live their sexual lives as they choose, not as the SPLC's lawyers want them to do. [emphasis added]
What makes NOM's defense of JONAH particularly shameful isn't the fact that "ex-gay" therapy is demonstrably ineffective. It's the cruel and degrading tactics JONAH employs. In a press release announcing its lawsuit against the organization, SPLC outlined JONAH's techniques:
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, [Alan] 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."
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." [emphasis added]
Brown and NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher have vigorously denied that their campaign against LGBT equality is motivated by animus toward LGBT individuals. But when NOM throws its weight behind the mean-spirited tactics of groups like JONAH, there's little doubt that such animus is at the heart of NOM's work.