Monday, May 4, 2015

On deck: Ferguson v. JONAH - conversion therapy fraud trial

Charles LiMandri - attorney representing JONAH
Ferguson et al vs. JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing fka Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) et al goes to trial on Monday, June 1. At issue is whether or not JONAH violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming that their conversion “therapy” could cure clients of their homosexuality. Jury selection is on May 29.

There doesn't seem to be much left of this case. For starters, all but one of Jonah's expert witnesses have been disqualified by the judge as crackpots. Furthermore there has been a partial summary judgment. The court has concluded:

  1. It is a misrepresentation in violation of the CFA to describe homosexuality as a disease or disorder rather than a normal variant of human sexuality.
  2. It is a misrepresentation in violation of the CFA to advertise certain “success” statistics when there is not factual basis for the calculation.
Several of JONAH's affirmative defenses were also dismissed. One of these is particularly amusing. JONAH claimed that numerous misrepresentations – including gay-to-straight conversion effectiveness – were not actionable under the CFA because they were just “puffery.” In other words, they didn't lie per se — they just exaggerated.

This unique action was commenced by lawyers at the Southern Poverty Law Center with assistance from the prominent Cleary, Gottlieb firm.  JONAH is represented by Charles LiMandri, Defender of the Faith and one-time counsel to National Organization for Marriage.

LiMandri is also a member of Legatus (part of the Ave Maria University - Tom Monaghan ultra-conservative Catholic operation). On May 1 the Legatus magazine ran an article titled “Religious liberty on the line.”

According to LiMandri:
A major theme for us, which we believe is going to resonate even with liberals, is that this is case all about the right to self-determination, free choice and free will. The other side is trying to stop people who have any opposition to homosexual behavior. The position of the Southern Poverty Law Center now is to declare that nobody should have the right to say that.
Except that none of that is material and will probably be excluded by the judge. At issue is whether or not JONAH violated the Consumer Fraud Act through misrepresentation and fraud. LiMandri concedes the inevitable:
We believe we can and will win this one as long as we don’t get our hands tied by unfair court rulings. As we stand, I’m confident we have a winning case because we have the truth on our side, and the party with the truth on their side, in my experience, will win 80% of the time.
Mr. LiMandri has some odd ideas about truth. He is defending a client that claims to have the ability to cure gay people. Good luck Chuck.

This case is important because it will provide a model for shutting down these charlatans who are no more credible than people conducting seances. Hopefully a jury will conclude that reparative therapy is consumer fraud.

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