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SPLC asks court to enforce order closing fraudulent 'conversion therapy' provider

The SPLC filed a motion today asking a court to enforce an order requiring the complete dissolution of a fraudulent gay-to-straight "conversion therapy" provider that the court ordered to shut down nearly three years ago, but that continues to operate under a different name.

In a landmark June 2015 victory, a jury found that the organization called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) falsely claimed that it could change its clients from gay to straight, violating New Jersey’s consumer fraud law. 

The following December, the New Jersey Superior Court issued a decision granting a permanent injunction, which forced JONAH to permanently cease any and all operations and dissolve its corporate entity as part of an agreement between JONAH, its founders and plaintiffs represented by the SPLC and its co-counsel.

But just 11 days after the permanent injunction was issued, JONAH filed articles of incorporation for “Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA),” which is essentially a continuation of JONAH. Not only does it have JONAH’s assets, leadership and core operations, but it has also maintained the same physical place of business and telephone number.

The SPLC’s motion, filed today in conjunction with the law firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, seeks to enforce the permanent injunction against the organization formally known as JONAH, and its founders Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, for failing to cease its operations and for continuing to promote conversion therapy.

“The court in 2015 ordered JONAH to close up shop forever, but its founders – Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk – have flouted the court order by changing JONAH’s name but not its function,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “JONAH’s founders continue to promote the fraudulent, harmful and dangerous practice of conversion therapy. We are asking the court, once again, to order them to cease any and all activity intended to ‘fix’ those who aren’t broken.”

Jim Bromley, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton, which is co-counsel with the SPLC on the case, said the motion sends a clear message.   

“The jury’s verdict and the court’s injunction meant what they said: JONAH and its founders perpetrated a fraud on our clients and too many others, and must shut down,” Bromley said. “We will not allow JONAH to simply change its name and continue its harmful, unlawful practices.” 

The SPLC filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit against JONAH in November 2012, accusing the organization of fraudulently claiming to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several young gay men who were harmed by the dangerous practice, and two of their parents who paid JONAH for their sons’ “therapy.” 

Conversion therapy is junk science marketed as a way to “cure” LGBT individuals, and has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

“I fought a long and grueling battle against JONAH, with the help of other plaintiffs and our lawyers, to ensure that no one else would have to experience what we went through,” said Chaim Levin, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “We refuse to stay silent as others continue to be subjected to the same sorts of junk science and emotional cruelty that we all worked so hard to stamp out.”