A Utah student is joining three other gay men to file a lawsuit against a group performing so-called “conversion therapy.” Utah’s first openly gay senator, Scott McCoy, will represent the students.
Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Chaim Levin and Sheldon Bruck all underwent therapies at a New Jersey center called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, more popularly known as JONAH. The Southern Poverty Law Center is sponsoring the lawsuit and filling it under New Jersey’s Fraud Act, which helps protect against false and misleading business practices. The price for so-called “conversion therapy” can be more than $10,000 annually
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, ‘converting’ from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations,” an SPLC statement read.
Locally, there are several therapists who participate in similar practices and encourage others to “diminish” their so-called “same-sex attraction.” One local “reparative” therapist, David Matheson, charges $200 for each session and is currently on a two-month waiting list. He is touted by Evergreen International, a group of gay Mormons who try to live within their church’s teachings. While Evergreen International is not officially sponsored by the Mormon Church, its conferences and events are held in church buildings and frequently features prominent church leaders.
“Sadly, there is no accountability for those who practice conversion therapy,” said Ferguson, the Utah plaintiff. “They play blindly with deep emotions and create an immense amount of self-doubt for the client. They seize on your personal vulnerability, and tell you that being gay is synonymous with being less of a man. They further misrepresent themselves as having the key to your new orientation.”
Estimated annual cost for so-called reparative therapy
Semi-annual Evergreen conferences: $200
Evergreen membership and suggested donation: $100
Suggested literature: $130
‘Ex-gay’ weekend: $650
David Matheson therapy sessions: $10,000