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SPLC: Appellate Division Unanimously Upholds Dissolution of Conversion Therapy Provider Who Was Barred From Promoting Fraudulent Practice In 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey upheld an order enforcing a permanent injunction against New Jersey-based conversion therapy promoters and awarding attorneys’ fees for bringing the enforcement action.

The following statement is from Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director, LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation:

“We applaud the Appellate Division for unanimously affirming Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr.'s order enforcing the permanent injunction and settlement agreement. This case was always about protecting vulnerable people and families against the purveyors of fraudulent, harmful and ineffective so-called gay-to-straight conversion therapy. We are gratified that the appellate decision agreed that Judge Bariso’s decision was correct and that the New Jersey legislature got it right when it outlawed conversion therapy for minors because ‘[b]eing lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.’ N.J.S.A. 45:1-54(a).

“In 2019, Judge Bariso ordered the dissolution of an organization known as the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA), which facilitates gay-to-straight ‘conversion therapy,’ because its founders were barred from promoting the fraudulent practice in 2015.

“In a landmark June 2015 victory, a jury found that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), the predecessor of JIFGA, falsely claimed that being gay or lesbian was a mental disease or disorder that could be cured and that it could change its clients from gay to straight, in violation of New Jersey’s consumer fraud law. Despite this ruling, the defendants continued to flagrantly violate the court’s injunction. Judge Bariso subsequently issued a 47-page written decision finding that the defendants violated the 2015 injunction and settlement agreement.

“In order to “deter and punish” the defendants, Judge Bariso also barred JONAH’s founders, Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, from serving as directors of certain New Jersey nonprofit corporations and ordered that Goldberg and JONAH pay attorney fees incurred in connection with plaintiffs’ efforts to enforce the injunction. The court also ordered the defendants to pay the full amount owed under the settlement agreement.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to $3.5 million in attorneys’ fees from the original case which the parties agreed would be the damages in the event defendants did not disband JONAH and stop promoting conversion therapy. The court had previously ordered JONAH to shut its doors and stop promoting conversion therapy because a jury found that its program was fraudulent and unconscionable – in violation of New Jersey’s consumer fraud law.

“The Court meant what it said. Conversion therapy is fraudulent because it is based on the lie that LGBTQ people can and should be fixed. Along with our clients and other allies, we will not stop until we eradicate these dangerous practices in New Jersey and around the country.”

We are particularly thankful to Bruce Greenberg of Lite DePalma Greenberg & Afanador. LLC of Newark, New Jersey, who served as co-counsel and argued the appeal to the Appellate Division, and to Lina Bensman, Luke Barefoot and Thomas Kessler of global law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP who also serve as co-counsel in this landmark case.

To read more about the original case:

To read more about the motion to enforce the permanent injunction: