NJ Court Rules ’Ex-Gay’ Therapy Practitioners Potentially Liable for Costs to Undo Their Damage
While Republicans in Texas are embracing reparative therapy as official plank language in the party’s platform, matters are played out differently in New Jersey last week when a superior court judge ruled that a conversion therapy organization could be liable for damages inflicted on four young people whose sexuality it claimed they could change.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled Friday that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) and its co-defendants may be liable for three times the amounts the four men paid for psychological counseling to repair the damage caused by JONAH’s conversion therapy program.
"JONAH’s conversion therapy damaged the individuals it was meant ’to cure,’" Bariso stated. "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."
In the first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed in 2012, the SPLC stated that:
Customers of JONAH’s services typically paid 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, Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrestle away two oranges -- used to represent testicles -- from another individual.
The court rejected a motion by JONAH seeking to limit it’s liability. Citing New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), the court held that costs incurred for legitimate therapy to repair damage caused by JONAH constituted an "ascertainable loss." Under the CFA, the clients represented by the SPLC could potentially recoup up to three time costs incurred.
Reparative or conversion therapy for minors has been banned in the Garden State since August 2013 when Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill forbidding the practice.
According to the Associated Press, a southern New Jersey couple filed papers to sue Governor Christie for signing the bill, claiming the law violates their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion because it prevents them from seeking treatment for their 15-year-old son.
The practice of conversion therapy has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association.