FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Truth Wins Out Celebrates Historic Legal Victory Over Conversion Therapy Group
Verdict Shows Consequences For Practice That is a Harmful Consumer Fraud
CHICAGO – Truth Wins Out celebrated a monumental legal victory over a notorious conversion therapy group in New Jersey today, with a jury finding Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) guilty of consumer fraud. JONAH had misled its clients by falsely promising that they could help them change their sexual orientation from gay-to-straight. The trial also exposed the tactics used by JONAH-affiliated therapists, which included abusive, bizarre and unscientific practices such as having clients undress and touch their genitals and reliving painful childhood moments in failed efforts to turn them into heterosexuals.
“This unanimous victory is profoundly gratifying and a landmark defeat for conversion therapists,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “This verdict shows that there are consequences for a practice that is consumer fraud and harms clients. We hope the results of this case will lead to a chilling effect on this destructive industry and serve as a warning to those who might be seduced into the believing the falsehood that conversion therapy works.”
This historic and unprecedented case was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Truth Wins Out played a role in helping to find plaintiffs, as well as conducting joint seminars with SPLC to educate various communities on the harm caused by various therapies. These included talks in Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, DC, as well as Provo and Salt Lake City Utah. Prior to the case, Truth Wins Out produced a key video featuring two of the eventual plaintiffs, Chaim Levin and Ben Unger, who discussed the humiliation and harm JONAH had caused them. Truth Wins Out, along with South Florida Gay News also unmasked JONAH co-founder Arthur Abba Goldberg as a convicted felon, who went to prison for fraud for his illegal worked on Wall Street.
In the trial, the jury found that Arthur Abba Goldberg and Elaine Berk, the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in Jersey City, as well as therapist Alan Downing “engaged in unconscionable commercial practices” and lied about the effectiveness of their product.
JONAH and Downing must reimburse thousands of dollars paid by former clients Michael Ferguson, BenUnger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, and parents Jo Bruck and Bella Levin, according to the verdict. They must also be refunded the money they spent on “Journey into Manhood” retreats in the forest. According to a court transcript, Downing charged $60 to $100 for group and individual sessions but gave a 20 percent kickback to JONAH for referrals.
In 2006, Truth Wins Out was the first group to publicly introduce the idea that the “ex-gay” industry could be successfully sued for fraud – which at the time seemed far-fetched. TWO asked Lambda Legal for help, and together the two groups produced a critically important document in 2009 called “Ex-Gay & The Law.” Southern Poverty Law Center embraced this vision, which led to this afternoon’s historic victory.
“We are thrilled that SPLC brought our vision to fruition,” said Truth Wins Out’s Besen. “They did a tremendous job on this case and deserve enormous credit for this incredible victory. We also want to thank plaintiffs Chaim Levin and Ben Unger, for their strength in standing up to these mean-spirited charlatans. When they agreed to appear in a Truth Wins Out video, we never knew it would lead to this amazing day.”
Goldberg falsely and recklessly promised his clients that his organization had a two-thirds success rate, but was unable to show where this bogus number actually came from. His failure helped persuade the jury that his program wasn’t particularly kosher.
Truth Wins Out (TWO) is a non-profit organization that works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice. Our philosophy is simple: We attack the underpinnings of homophobia by debunking harmful lies, discrediting hateful myths, and countering anti-gay organizations. By chipping away at the underlying ignorance that fuels anti-LGBT attitudes, we can ultimately win our fight for fairness and achieve full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people worldwide.