New Jersey Judge: Ex-Gay Therapists May Be Liable For Damages To Former Clients


A preliminary ruling in a New Jersey court suggests that an organization that provides supposed ex-gay therapy may have to pay out damages to clients who were harmed by the conversion therapy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brought the suit a year and a half ago, accusing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) of consumer fraud for providing ex-gay therapy. Plaintiffs outlined humiliating and degrading experiences from their treatment, including having to strip nude in front of their therapist and re-enact past trauma. Their suit demands compensation for the failed treatment, as well as for the therapy they later sought to correct the damage incurred by JONAH.

JONAH sought a summary judgment to dismiss the claims for the post-JONAH therapy, but New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. denied the request Friday, explaining that he thinks there’s a case to be made that the organization is liable. Assuming the truth of the plaintiffs’ experiences, Bariso wrote, “JONAH’s conversion therapy damaged the individuals it was meant ‘to cure,’” and thus “any subsequent costs of repairing Plaintiff’s mental or emotional health are the direct and proximate result of JONAH’s actions and, hence, should be borne by JONAH.” The case will now proceed considering both claims for damages.

JONAH claims to provide “psychological and spiritual counseling, peer support, and self-empowerment” in order to “heal the wounds surrounding homosexuality.” But according to David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director, “These young men were left with guilt, shame, and frustration” by a treatment that psychologists have rejected as ineffective and that survivors have overwhelmingly described as harmful.