A nonprofit group that claimed its so-called conversion therapy would turn gay men straight violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud act, a jury found Thursday in a civil trial.
The jury found that the group — Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing — and its co-founder Arthur Goldberg made false promises that they could turn homosexuals into heterosexuals by, among other methods, having them spend more time naked with their fathers.
The original four plaintiffs, three young men from Orthodox Jewish families and the fourth a Mormon, alleged that the nonprofit organization exploited them with false promises as they struggled with their same-sex attractions in strict religious environments where they were expected to marry women and have children.
One man dropped out of the suit, but his mother remained.
The plaintiffs were awarded over $72,000 in total damages. The judge was expected rule later on their request to revoke the company's license. It was not immediately clear when that decision would be announced.
The plaintiffs sued the group in 2012 under New Jersey's consumer fraud laws. Their attorneys argued that the group lied about its success rate and used methods that had no scientific basis.
Attorneys for the nonprofit said that it had not made guarantees, and should be allowed to offer help to people struggling with their sexuality.
The trial began this month and featured testimony from the plaintiffs about the group's methods. They said these included using a tennis racket to beat a pillow that was meant to represent one man's mother, and engaging in role play that included a locker room scene where gay slurs were used.
New Jersey has already banned gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors. So have California, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. The Obama administration earlier this year called for an end to conversion therapy. Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, introduced a bill in May that would ban gay conversion therapy at the federal level.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press