Consumer Law

Consumer Fraud Suit Targets Disbarred Lawyer Running Conversion Therapy Group

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A suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four gay men and two of their mothers claims a conversion therapy center co-founded by a disbarred lawyer violates New Jersey’s consumer fraud law.

The center, called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or Jonah, promises to help those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, the New York Times and the New York Daily News report. But the suit says Jonah’s humiliating and ineffective therapy included requiring participants to strip naked and to pummel pillows intended to represent their mothers, who were blamed for their sons’ homosexuality.

The suit (PDF), filed Tuesday in New Jersey superior court, names as a defendant disbarred lawyer Arthur Goldberg, a Jonah co-founder sentenced to prison for financial fraud in the 1980s, the Times says.

The suit is the first to allege fraudulent business practices by a conversion therapy provider, according to a press release. The release quotes SPLC deputy legal director Christine Sun. “Despite the consensus of mainstream professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn’t work, this racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them,” Sun said.

Co-counsel in the case are Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and Lite DePalma Greenberg.

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