'Ex-Gay' Group Could Pay Big Damages in N.J. Suit

While the case has yet to go to trial, a judge today rejected the 'ex-gay' organization's request to limit damages.

BY Trudy Ring

June 06 2014 4:41 PM ET

A New Jersey Superior Court judge today rejected an “ex-gay” group’s motion to limit damages in a lawsuit brought by former clients, meaning the group could be liable for three times what the clients paid for subsequent counseling to undo the harm caused by so-called reparative therapy.

Four former clients and two of their parents, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and private attorneys, filed the suit in 2012 against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, also known as JONAH, along with its founder and a counselor employed by the group. The suit charges that JONAH violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming its services could change people from gay to straight. This type of therapy has been discredited by every major medical and mental health organization.

In his opinion today, Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. “held that costs for legitimate therapy to repair damage caused by conversion therapy constitute an ‘ascertainable loss,’ a prerequisite to seeking damages under the Consumer Fraud Act,” SPLC officials said in a press release. “The court further ruled that such costs of repairing the damage caused by conversion therapy can be recovered as ‘damages sustained’ under the CFA.”

According to the suit, JONAH subjected its clients to such “therapy” as standing naked in a circle with their counselor, and it encouraged them to blame their parents for allegedly making them gay, with exercises that included beating effigies of their mothers.

“These self-proclaimed experts inflicted grave damage upon our clients, who believed JONAH’s claims that it could ‘cure’ them of being gay,” said SPLC deputy legal director David Dinielli. “Instead, these young men were left with guilt, shame and frustration. No amount of money can fix the damage JONAH caused, but recognizing that JONAH can be held accountable for the cost of repairing that damage is an important step.”

The case is expected to go to trial early next year. Read more about it on the SPLC website.

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