Utah student files lawsuit against so-called ‘reparative therapists’

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

Total: $11,080

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  1. It is about time we bring down reparative therapy, which is based on no sound science whatsoever! What the article didn't mention was the suicides associated with these therapies, where hundreds, if not thousands of gay men and women kill themselves during their struggle to find themselves as something other than queer.

  2. Scott is an amazing person to take on this case. He is great at what he does and I an sure will represent these men with integrity and strength. Good for all of them for pursuing this and bringing it to the forefront to be addressed! Kudos to all involved

  3. Michael will remember Doctor Shock working out of BYU back in the 1980's. Might be a good sidebar story to this one.

  4. Michael Adam Ferguson is a courageous, strong, capable man, and an excellent example of being a difference-maker; this time in a national spotlight. This country needs more lawsuits just like this one to wipe out these reprehensible practices. Conversion and Reparative Therapies/Theapists are still very prominent in Utah. I personally witnessed the infamous electro-shock therapy at BYU in the 70's.

    Based upon the LDS Church's current stand of LIFE-celibacy for queer people, and no full queer civil/legal/equal/domestic or marital rights–another huge therapy is emerging; REPRESSION THERAPY. This equates to nothing more than horrid brainwashing and mind manipulation. The whole just "Turn It Off" hypothesis, which damages the full and beautiful human being, and is cloaked in shame, hiding, fear, secrecy, and self-perceived imperfection. This should become an URGENT (front of the line) issue of Utah's GLBT community.

  5. I'm so glad this is FINALLY coming out into the light and people who have had to endure this awful garbage are suing. These homophobes have had their secret hidden for too long and being gay is not something to be feared or thought of as sick or wrong! We are in 2012, people!

  6. "Gay is synonymous with being less of a man" is a full of baloney and based on the doctrine.

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