Why I won’t be a witness in the New Jersey ex-gay therapy trial

David Benkof Contributor
Font Size:

My recent Daily Caller essay, which explained how the totality of the scholarship on homosexuality demonstrates that homosexuality cannot be inborn, received a lot of attention. One of the more interesting E-mails I received was an invitation by the lawyer representing “Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality” (JONAH) to testify as a defense witness in the New Jersey lawsuit that it committed fraud by promising gay people that their homosexuality could be “cured.” I wrote them back with the following letter:

In my opinion, your case is very good but your clients are very bad. I am appalled by the idea that the government of New Jersey thinks it can tell people what kinds of therapy they can and cannot pursue. If the Constitution guarantees a right to privacy (and I’m not sure it does), surely the state has no business getting in our minds and determining how we arrange our thoughts and our identities and our behaviors and our principles. It’s just offensive.

On the other hand, JONAH takes an approach to homosexuality that is not Torah-true. It has deceived many, many fine rabbis into endorsing strategies regarding LGBT people that have no basis in Jewish law and make unreasonable demands that the Torah itself doesn’t require. The founders of JONAH are non-Orthodox Jews who are disappointed in their gay children and have decided to take out their frustrations on innocent Orthodox people, many of them quite young. Their victims already suffer greatly, and JONAH’s methodology is nothing short of cruel.

(JONAH co-founder) Arthur Goldberg has asked two JONAH men I know to violate Shabbat (!?!) for the sake of “the cause.” I once got an E-mail from a woman involved with JONAH urging me to check out jonahweb.org and narth.com. The E-mail was sent on Shabbat. I checked with a rabbi and then let her know that according to Jewish law, it would have been better for her to HAVE LESBIAN SEX than to use her computer on that holy day, which is an eternal sign between God and the Jewish people. She said she “didn’t agree” because helping people overcome homosexuality was “so important.” Only a person completely ignorant of Jewish priorities could have that opinion.

Besides, reparative therapy doesn’t work. I have repeatedly asked JONAH to let me speak with five men who had transitioned from being gay to being straight through JONAH’s techniques. They have never referred me to even one. By contrast, I have spoken to at least a dozen men who told me reparative therapy as provided through JONAH did not help them at all. Some were hostile to the organization, others not. But none had been “healed.”

I see this as a “Skokie” moment for me. The lawyers working for the ACLU in 1978 violently disagreed with the ideology and behavior of the neo-Nazis who wanted to have a march in a neighborhood populated by many Holocaust survivors. But the First Amendment was more important to them. I don’t like the ACLU much, especially not its current iteration. But I greatly admire the courage of those who defended the worst people in the world so everyone else’s freedom would be protected.

So yes, I’m willing to be an expert witness in your case. But I will tell the truth regarding any question I am asked under cross-examination, and I will continue to express my opinions in print and otherwise about any issue I choose.

It’s really up to you.

Best wishes,


It should come as no surprise that within a few hours of receiving my reply, JONAH withdrew its invitation. Later, when I started letting people know their lawyer had contacted me, he wrote again, accusing me of “bad form” and lacking “professional integrity.” Well, OK.

Soon after I started thinking that having gay relations was inconsistent with my Jewish religious beliefs, I began to see a therapist. She was a liberal Jew who clearly had no moral opposition to homosexuality. I was certain that if it were up to her, I would be dating men. But it wasn’t up to her. With compassion, wisdom, and grace, she helped me clarify my worldview, and ultimately live my life consistently with it.

The idea that it would even cross her mind that someday I might sue her for helping me explore ideas and behaviors that the LGBT community opposes is alarming. I am quite thankful she never had to self-censor even a little because of fear of litigation. Her style wasn’t “conversion therapy” per se, but it certainly wasn’t “gay affirmative therapy,” which many in the gay community consider to be the only legitimate approach.

The New Jersey lawsuit is funded by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a once-noble but currently nasty body that labels any organization that dares disagree with its support of gay marriage a “hate group.” As part of their case, SPLC claims a “consensus” among experts that homosexuality is a normal and “positive variation of human sexual orientation.” Thus they marginalize or even silence traditional religious views about this fraught moral issue.

I don’t know who’s more odious – JONAH or the SPLC. But I’m rooting for JONAH in this case, because of the risk of a dangerous chilling effect on psychotherapy and individual choice if they lose.

Sometimes, there are no good guys. But if forced to pick a side, I’m going with freedom.

David Benkof is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Daily Caller. E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook.