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Posts for September, 2013

Ex-Gay Group Soliciting Positive Testimonials To Defend Against Lawsuit

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2013

Rich Wyler, director of of the ex-gay group People Can Change, has sent out an email to address what he calls an “urgent need for first-person testimonials, to help defend against (a) lawsuit.” The lawsuit in question was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four former clients and two of the parents, against JONAH (an ex-gay group for Jews), its founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing, alleging that they committed fraud in claiming to be able to cure clients of the gay.

Alan Downing

Two of the former clients in the lawsuit, Benjamin Ungar and Chaim Levin, described some of the so-called therapies that Downing conducted, which included encouraging Ungar and Levin (separately) to undress and touch their genitals with Downing present. Levin complied, but Ungar resisted (as did another client, according to the complaint). Downing, who has admitted to still being attracted to men, has also included cuddling and hugging as part of his therapy. Goldberg later admitted admitted, and defended, the practice of asking clients to undress, but he denied that anyone was asked to touch their genitals. In February 2010, it was revealed that Arthur Goldberg had been convicted as a Wall Street swindler in 1989.

The lawsuit also alleges that Downing led his clients through verbally abusive exercises in which clients were directed to either act out or stage traumatic events using other clients as actors in the “psychodrama.”

Downing, in addition to being a counselor for JONAH, is also listed on the People Can Change website as a “Senior Facilitator” for Journey into Manhood, which is a controversial “ex-gay” backwoods retreat designed to supposedly make gay men more masculine. That retreat also includes communal cuddling and other homoerotic exercises.

It’s apparently because of Downing’s connection with People Can Change that Wyler has decided to try to come to JONAH’s rescue with his urgent email:

Rich Wyler

We need your help!

There is an urgent need for numerous first-person testimonials demonstrating that, yes, some people really have reduced or eliminated their same-sex attractions through deliberate interventions like gender-affirming counseling, experiential weekend programs, supportive religious ministries, non-sexual same-gender bonding, etc.

We especially need testimonials from people who are willing to use their real names; however, anonymous testimonials are needed and very welcome, as well.

Even if you are still on the “journey” and haven’t yet experienced significant change — or at least not a reduction in unwanted same-sex attractions — your answers in support of voluntary change efforts could still be very helpful.

Also, if you’ve had positive experiences overall with counseling, experiential training/retreats, SSA ministries, etc., your answers could be very helpful.

The email then includes an individualized link to a Survey Monkey questionnaire of approximately twenty questions, including a mix of multiple choice and free-form text, asking respondents about their experiences in trying to change their sexual orientation. It also asks about the client’s religious affiliation, type of therapist (professional, counselor, minister, life coach, etc.) and the degree to which the respondent feels that he has changed. The email then continued with its explanation for why they were collecting this information:

Now here’s some background leading to this request: The SSA support organization JONAH has been hit with a politically motivated lawsuit alleging that supposedly no one with same-sex attractions (SSA) can ever diminish, reduce or alter those attractions, and therefore JONAH’s claim that change is ever possible allegedly constitutes consumer fraud.

In our first-hand experience at People Can Change, this is absurd.

If this lawsuit succeeds, every counselor, nonprofit organization or religious ministry that serves SSA men and women who seek to change will be targeted next.

To help inoculate the cause against these kinds of false allegations, and to help support JONAH in its lawsuit, People Can Change is collecting first-person testimonials of men and women who have experienced a meaningful reduction in unwanted same-sex attractions and/or an increase in opposite-sex attractions.

We are also seeking testimonials from people who can personally attest to the efficacy of such interventions as psychodrama, “guts work,” or emotional-release processes such as those often used on experiential weekends or trainings.

Please help! Please answer this questionnaire, and forward it to others, as well, who may also be able to testify of the reality of sexual orientation change efforts.

 

Jewish Press Publishes Op-Ed About Ex-Gay Abuses

Jim Burroway

January 26th, 2012

The Jewish Press, a conservative newspaper which has published advertisements for the Jewish ex-gay group JONAH, this morning published an op-ed by Chaim Levin detailing the abuses he experienced while participating in ex-gay therapy. Levin wrote in response to another op-ed by Elliot Resnick published six months ago in The Jewish Press, “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence,” in which, without mentioning Levin’s name, Resnick responded to Levin’s “It Gets Better” video by saying that he should learn to suffer in silence. In this responding op-ed, Levin describes what Resnick believes he should remain silent over:

The worst part of my experience in reparative therapy came at the end. In a locked office, alone with my unlicensed “life coach,” I was told to undress, stand in front of the counselor and do things too graphic to describe in this article. I was extremely uncomfortable, but he said that I must do this for the sake of changing and that if I didn’t remove my clothing I wouldn’t be doing the work it takes to achieve change. I would do anything to change, and so I did what he asked me to do. It was probably the most traumatizing experience of my life.

I tried to tell people what happened, but the organization said it wasn’t true and refused to fire the life coach. But I have spoken to other men whom underwent the same experience. And I can only imagine how many other young men who this has happened to who have not yet come forward. One of the most frustrating aspects was that because this coach is not licensed by any professional board, he is unaccountable to any licensing committee. Since I was over eighteen and agreed to this kind of therapy, I am told that I have no legal recourse. But I do have my voice! Yet, even after coming forward with what happened, nothing has changed. I often hear that this therapy has helped people, that it is wonderful, but I wonder, how helpful can an organization be when it causes great suffering and pain to many who come to them for hope.

Two weeks ago, JONAH founder Arthur Goldberg admitted and defended the practice of asking clients to undress, but denied that anyone was asked to touch their genitals.

Levin lays out the evidence for homophobia in the Orthodox community, citing the recent Torah Declaration case for “perpetuat(ing) the notion that all homosexuals in the Orthodox community must change in reparative therapy. …Unlike these other statements, it does not allow those for whom this kind of therapy is harmful or not working to seek other options. It kills me that this Torah Declaration will be used by parents to force their children into therapies that may be harmful to them.” He also mentions a grass roots Orthodox support community, JQYouth, who he says “saved my life.”

Ex-Gay Leader Admits To “Naked Therapy” Within His Organization

Jim Burroway

January 12th, 2012

In 2010, two former ex-gay clients of an unlicensed therapist associated with JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) came forward to describe a “psychological striptease” in which their ex-gay therapist had them strip and touch their genitals as part of their ex-gay “therapy.” The therapist, Alan Downing, who admits that he is still attracted to men, has declined to comment. But in an article published in the New York-based The Jewish Week last December, JONAH founder Arthur Goldberg both admitted and defended the practice of asking clients to undress, but denied that anyone was asked to touch their genitals:

On very rare occasions, for those suffering from “severe body image issues,” a JONAH therapist may have asked a client to undress, but only with three people present in the room, said the group’s founder, Arthur Goldberg.

“As far as I’m aware,” a JONAH therapist has never asked a client to touch himself during a session, he said. (Former ex-gay client Chaim) Levin said there were no witnesses in the room with him and Downing and that the door was locked.

Downing is a therapist for the Jonah Institute for Gender Affirmation and is listed on the People Can Change website as a “Senior Facilitator” for Journey into Manhood, which is a controversial “ex-gay” backwoods retreat designed to supposedly make gay men more masculine.

In February 2010, it was revealed that Arthur Goldberg had been convicted as a Wall Street swindler in 1989.

Former Ex-Gay “Jewskimo” On Living In “No Man’s Land”

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2011

Stories of former ex-gays are almost exclusively told from an Evangelical Christian perspective, which makes Jayson Littman’s essay in Heeb magazine so interesting. He is a former ex-gay client of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH, formerly Jews offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). He described his entry into JONAH as being a choice between conversion therapy and dying. The idea of coming out as a religious Jew was unthinkable. In JONAH, Littman found like-minded individuals trying to figure out how to live in “No Man’s Land”:

I became close to other men around my age who were on the same journey. We would often sit around and talk. I called the stage we were in “no-man’s land”—there was an obvious literal meaning to that as we weren’t sexually active with men or each other, to the dismay of most who think that’s what happens at these retreats. And we weren’t attracted to women, so we mainly hung out with each other and talked. We decided we didn’t appreciate the term ex-gay. How can we be ex-gay if we were never gay to begin with? We spent hours one afternoon debating what to call our in-between status. We broke down ex-homo to ex-mo and because we said it so many times fast, we realized it sounded like Eskimo. We then further segregated ourselves to Jewskimos, Chriskimos. We never met any Muskimos (Muslim Eskimos) during our journey.

In his ex-gay phase — one in which he eventually came out of — he and fellow ex-gay Jews often attended Christian ex-gay conferences, where he was struck by one immediate difference between Christian culture and Jewish culture:

I learned a lot from my Jewish and Christian brothers on my journey. I realized that many Christians who were attempting to change had an end-goal of celibacy, while the Jews wanted to get married and have children. The obvious difference had everything to do with religious dictates. Celibacy was highly regarded and practiced in the Christian culture, while Jews focused on biblical procreation, also pleasing our families.

Littman’s cheerful essay is devoid of drama and regrets over his experience with ex-gay therapy. Indeed, he credits his coming out to many of the valuable things he learned there. And he observes that Jewish culture, including Orthodox culture, has come a long way over the past decade. Littman today runs He’Bro, a gay Jewish promotion events group in New York, and this Saturday he’s throwing a huge “Jew Years Eve” bash for Rosh Hashanah.

Yet more amicus briefs in support of Prop 8

Timothy Kincaid

September 24th, 2010

Adding to the growing pile (both in size and in lunacy) of amicus briefs filed in support of the Prop 8 Proponents, today we have Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Mat Staver and his merry crew at Liberty Counsel.

Whelan chimes in to “provide a survey of the district judge’s remarkable course of misconduct in this case.” Liberty Counsel’s amicus was designed to make sure that the crazier elements of the anti-gays were represented, specifically Campaign for Children and Families and Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing. CCF is the home of Randy Thomasson and is so wackadoodle that the Prop 8 Proponents went to court to bar them from participating. JONAH is the Jewish ex-gay group founded by convicted Wall Street con-man Arthur Goldberg.

Whelan basically just whines about how Judge Walker was not fair!! There wasn’t much of interest in the he’s a big ol’ meanie brief, but the Liberty Counsel brief was a delight. Predictably, they thought it was a smart move to prove the judge’s point that the anti-gay marriage movement was motivated by fear and loathing of gay people.

You might say that Liberty Counsel, CCF, and JONAH presented the quintessential Animus Brief.

II. SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS ARE DIFFERENT THAN OPPOSITE-SEX RELATIONSHIPS.

Wholly apart from the biological and procreative differences between opposite-sex and same-sex couples, the psychological and medical risks associated with the homosexual lifestyle are contrary to the district court‟s conclusion that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are, in essence, the same. (FF nos. 48, 70). It is well documented that those engaged in the homosexual lifestyle have much greater incidence of substance abuse, mental health problems, medical illness, and relationship dysfunctions. Documenting these facts, a recently published, peer-reviewed journal concludes that “it is difficult to find another group in society with such high risks for experiencing such a wide range of medical, psychological, and relational dysfunctions.” NARTH, 1 J. of Human Sexuality 1:53 (2009) (“Journal”).

Oh, and then they quote NARTH’s self-published “Journal”

In addition, “”30.3 percent of homosexually active women were ‘very high or drunk 3 or more days’ in the past year compared to 16.6 percent of heterosexual women,” and “8.4 percent of homosexually active women were ‘very high or drunk an average of once per week or more’ in the past year compared to 2.3 percent of heterosexual women.” Id. at 1:58.

Lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry; they’re all drunks! But if the women are all lushes, the men are all diseased:

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the homosexual community also is significantly higher than among heterosexuals. “In the 20th century, HIV/AIDS risk was approximately 430 times greater among homosexuals than among heterosexuals.” Id. at 1:66. In 2005, “the risks of acquiring HIV from a single act of unprotected sex within the male homosexual community in the United States remained about 500 times greater than within the heterosexual community.” Id. “Lifetime prevalence for STDs in homosexual men was 75 percent compared with 16.9 percent for heterosexual men.” Id.

It’s amazing how much bile you can spew when your source is NARTH. I can just see Charles Cooper cringing at the idea of the Ninth Circuit judges reading this recitation of bigotry and spite.

Part II of this exercise in animus is dedicated to presenting the NARTHian models of what causes homosexuality.

Here we find that “the family pattern involving a combination of a dominating, overly intimate mother plus a detached, hostile or weak father is beyond doubt related to the development of male homosexuality” (though a “sports wound” might contribute as well). As for the drunk lesbians, “a narcissistic (self-absorbed) mother may interfere with her daughter‟s separation and individuation and propel her in the direction of lesbianism, but severe hurt by a male may also communicate the same message of insecurity and vulnerability.”

Well that sounds to me like a good reason to ban heterosexual marriage. Or at least procreation. Yikes.

But, having just trashed heterosexual parents, this brief then argues that it is precisely for the purpose of channeling procreation into these dysfunctional messes that marriage exists. So it is to Randy Thomasson and Arthur Goldberg that I dedicate this lovely picture of a pair of loons.

JONAH’s Name Change Reveals Their True Mission

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2010

Mike Airhart noticed that the Jewish ex-gay group, JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), has changed its name somewhat. The new name, which was designed to fit the JONAH acronym, is now Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing.

This grammatically-challenged name change reveals quite a lot. Remember, they used to offer “alternatives to homosexuality.” You know, where an alternative to homosexuality is… well, whatever it is, it’s definitely not homosexuality.

So now they offer alternatives to healing. Alternatives which, you know, are definitely not healing.

It’s good to see that they chose a name to reflect that fact. Arthur Goldberg, who heads the organization, was revealed last February as being a convicted Wall Street swindler. And more recently, a JONAH affiliated “life coach” was accused by two former clients of sexual impropriety by, essentially, guiding his clients through a strip tease as part of their so-called “therapy.”

So yeah. Alternatives to healing indeed.

Ex-Gay “Life Coach” Accused of Sexual Impropriety

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2010

Alan Downing

Truth Wins Out released a video today featuring two former clients of “ex-gay” life coach Alan Downing who allege that as part of their “therapy”, Downing made them undress in front of a mirror and touch their bodies while the older therapist watched. The two former clients, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, liken the sessions to a “psychological striptease” say they were harmed by what they consider unprofessional behavior and sexual misconduct.

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According to a statement from Truth Wins Out:

Downing, who admits he is still attracted to men, is a major player in the “ex-gay” industry and a practitioner of so-called “reparative therapy”. He is the lead therapist for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) and is listed on the People Can Change website as a “Senior Trainer” for Journey into Manhood, which is a controversial “ex-gay” backwoods retreat designed to supposedly make gay men more masculine.

For more background information on Journey Into Manhood, you can read about journalist Ted Cox’s undercover report here where he describes some of the group’s homoerotic “therapy” techniques.

JONAH is headed by Arthur Abba Goldberg, who was revealed last February as having been convicted of a Wall Street swindle in 1989. He was convicted of a conspiracy to defraud the United States in a scheme to sell fake bonds to cash-strapped cities. Goldberg founded JONAH after serving his eighteen-month prison sentence.

In the latest video, Ungar and Levin describe their “therapy” sessions with Downing:

“He was encouraging me, ‘it’s okay Ben, you can take your shirt off’…here was a man that was much older than me, and I was around 20,” said Ben Unger, a former client of Alan Downing. “At that point, I was just staring at a mirror with my shirt off and he was right behind me staring at the mirror with me at my body. Then telling me to look at my body and feel my body. It was weird.”

“While I was standing there without my clothes on, he asked me to touch my genitals,” says former Downing client Chaim Levin. “Once again, I communicated that I was not comfortable with it. And he was like, you know, ‘just feel yourself. Just feel it for a second. So, you can grasp your masculinity physically.’”

Ex-Gay Leader Exposed As Wall Street Ex-Felon

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2010
Arthur Goldberg

Arthur Goldberg

Truth Win’s Out and South Florida Gay News teamed up for a joint investigation to learn that Arthur Goldberg, head of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), was convicted in 1989 of conspiracy to defraud the United States:

In 1989, Goldberg plead guilty in federal court in California and Illinois to three counts of wire and mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The accusations he admitted to include his participation as the engineer of a phony bond and investment scheme, which netted his Wall Street investment firm nearly $11 million in illegal fees.

The U.S. Attorney who handled the case at the time, K. William O’Connor, told the court at his sentencing that Goldberg’s crime was “a fraud of spectacular scope.”

The SEC banned Goldberg and his firm from ever selling securities again. In addition to his prison term, Goldberg was disbarred in both New Jersey and Connecticut. Despite that, he lists himself as a Doctor of Laws today on the website of NARTH.

He was found guilty of selling fake bonds to Guam and the city of East St. Louis. SFGN has more:

Goldberg was sentence to 18 months imprisonment in the Central District of California, which he served concurrently with an Illinois sentence imposed at the same time. It was followed by five years if supervised probation and a $100,000 fine, eventually paid on November 24, 1999.

K. William O’Connor, the U.S. attorney who put him away, said at his sentencing that Goldberg was “a man who habitually took advantage of people who were economically dependent upon him; that he did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up to achieve his criminal aims. His greed has caused incalculable harm…”

Golberg’s full name is Arthur Abba Goldberg. He was given the nickname of “Abba Dabba Do.” He dropped his middle name “Abba” when he founded JONAH in 2000, almost immediately after paying the last installment of his fine. In addition to his work in JONAH, he is also president of the umbrella ex-gay organization known as Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH). Member groups include the National Association of Reserach and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); Courage, a Catholic ex-gay ministry; Evergreen International, a Mormon ex-gay organization;Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation; and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX).

South Florida Gay News has an exhaustive report, and Truth Win’s Out has posted newspaper articles from the 1980’s of the investigation and trial leading up to Goldberg’s conviction and sentencing.

Scott Lively: Following The Money

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2009

How is a well-known Holocaust revisionist able to gain so much cooperation among other anti-gay groups? Let’s follow the money.

Lively’s Pro Family Charitable Trust is an arm of his Abiding Truth Ministries, which is one of only twelve anti-gay hate groups listed by the the SPLC. A quick look at the trust’s contributions tell an interesting story:

  • NARTH received three grants totalling $2000.
  • The Jewish ex-gay group JONAH received a grant for $500.
  • Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation received a grant for $500.
  • Peter LaBarbera received two grants totally $2000.
  • Watchmen On the Walls, a group that was co-founded by Lively, received a grant for $500. The Watchmen are also listed among the SPLC’s twelve anti-gay hate groups.
  • Paul Cameron’s Family Research Institute received a grant for $300. The FRI is another of the SPLC’s anti-gay hate groups.
  • Exodus-Affiliated ministries receiving grants include Living Stones Ministry ($250), HIS Ministry ($500), and PFOX ($750).
  • Other notable recipients include San Diego ex-gay gadfly James Hartline ($500), Stephen Bennett ($500) and Linda Harvey’s web site, Mission America ($400).

These must be considered minimum sums. The top grant is described as being the 31st grant on a page which only lists 28 grants, so this is clearly not a complete list.

It also appears not to be an up-to-date one either. Abiding Truth Ministry’s 2007 IRS 990 form (PDF; registration required) from Guidestar.org lists:

  • an additional grant of $750 to Linda Harvey’s Mission America,
  • an additional grant of $300 to James Hartline
  • a grant of $1750 to the Pro Family Law Center in Temecula, California, a project of Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries.

Some of these values may not look like much, but most of these groups operate on a shoestring budget. Some are little more than volunteer operations much like our own vast conspiracy here at BTB (which consists only of a web site and four volunteers). So to many of these outfits, these contributions can be significant. Maybe that’s why Peter LaBarbera has been carrying Lively’s water the past few weeks.

[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]

NARTH Goes South Of The Border

Jim Burroway

May 19th, 2008

A. Dean ByrdThe National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) took their ex-gay message to Mexico a few weeks ago. Sponsored by the Mexican ex-gay group Renacer (“Rebirth”), an “Understanding Homosexuality” conference featuring at least six prominent American ex-gay activists took place May 1-3 at the Sheraton Centro Histórico in Mexico City.

The Spanish language LGBT web site Anodis reported that conference speakers included:

  • NARTH president A. Dean Byrd,
  • NARTH past president Joseph Nicolisi,
  • NARTH president-elect Julie Harren-Hamilton,
  • Desert Hope Ministries founder and director Janelle M. Hallman,
  • Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) co-director Arthur Goldberg,
  • Venus magazine publisher Charlene Cothran.

According to Anodis, Byrd opened the conference by claiming that he didn’t want to change anyone, and that he respected those who are “defined as openly gay.” He mentioned the 1990 removal of homosexuality from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), but then he went on to describe homosexuality using the clinical sounding acronym SSA, or Same-Sex Attraction, which he describes it as “something [that] happens in the development of the individual.” Byrd then went on to decry the state of research into homosexuality today, claiming that half the research is being conducted by gay people. This, by the way, is a most unscientific claim, one that can be easily disproved by a few quick searches of the PubMed databases on virtually any topic related to homosexuality.

Identifying the hallmarks of sound science is clearly not Dr. Byrd’s strong suit. This is the man who, with Nicolosi, co-authored the recent ex-gay “study” in the pay-to-publish vanity journal Psychological Reports, a paper which reads more like ex-gay propaganda than legitimate social science. In 2002, Byrd cited the work of discredited “researcher” Paul Cameron in a paper published by Regent University.

Meanwhile, other shining examples of “science” include Julie Harren-Hamilton focusing on child sexual abuse as being a critical factor in the development of male homosexuality, and Nicolosi claiming to have treated “hundreds of men” to “reorient their SSA.”

According to Anodis, approximately 300 people paid between 900 to 1,200 pesos (US$87 to $115) for the three day conference.

[Hat tip: Andrés Duque at Blabbeando]