Court Shuts Down JONAH

Over the past year, Albany Update has reported several times on the unjust treatment to which Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH), a small nonprofit providing assistance to persons seeking freedom from unwanted homosexual attractions, has been subjected by the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the courts.

Founded in 1999, JONAH is “dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors which lead to same-sex attractions. JONAH works with those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions (SSA) and with families whose loved ones are involved in homosexuality… [Because] mankind has been endowed by our Creator with a free will, everyone has the capacity to change… Through psychological and spiritual counseling, peer support, and self-empowerment, JONAH seeks to reunify families, to heal the wounds surrounding homosexuality, and to provide hope.”

The SPLC, a $300-million organization that now acts as the speech police of the American Left, objected to JONAH’s beliefs and activities and filed suit against the organization in November 2012. The plaintiffs in that case claimed that they were duped into paying for JONAH’s services based on “false” representations that sexual orientation change is possible, and that they suffered harm as a result. SPLC attorneys—one of whom engaged in an intense debate on this issue with NYCF Legislative Director Stephen Hayford at Cardozo Law School last April—employed the novel argument that JONAH had violated a consumer fraud statute. In June 2015, following unconscionable rulings by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso that made it impossible for JONAH to adequately defend itself, a jury found JONAH liable for consumer fraud and ordered the organization to pay money damages.

While JONAH contemplated a possible appeal, the organization ultimately entered into a settlement in which it agreed to close its doors and pay an undisclosed sum. Predictably, SPLC is already using this case as a cautionary tale; following the settlement, one SPLC attorney commentedthat “‘conversion therapy providers would be well-advised to examine what happened to JONAH, and to abandon their foolish efforts to make gay people straight.’”

Most Christians are familiar with the Old Testament Book of Jonah. The prophet Jonah was commanded by God to go to the City of Nineveh and preach to its inhabitants. Jonah refused, and boarded a ship that was bound for a different city. After the Lord sent a storm that nearly capsized the ship, Jonah instructed the ship’s crew to throw him overboard; when they did so, the storm subsided. Jonah, meanwhile, was swallowed by a large fish. Jonah remained inside the fish for three days and three nights, during which time Jonah repented of his disobedience. After the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land, the Lord again commanded Jonah to go to the City of Nineveh and preach to its inhabitants. This time, Jonah obeyed, the people of Nineveh repented of their evil ways, and the Lord had mercy on them and spared them from the destruction that would have resulted had they persisted in their wickedness.

Jonah disobeyed the Lord, but the Lord gave him a second chance. The Ninevites rebelled against the Lord, but the Lord gave them an opportunity to change course and put their trust in Him. The JONAH organization has worked to provide a second chance for men and women who seek a way out of homosexuality. The fact that JONAH has been bullied out of existence for speaking truths that some find inconvenient is both tragic and ominous, as this case will, no doubt, be used in other states to silence and punish others who speak similar truths. At NYCF, we will continue to stand firm for the continued availability of sexual orientation change efforts in New York.