Once again, Erik Eckholm gets to write about the ex-gay movement, which I thought he did so badly the Friday before the election. Part of this is about the lawsuit in California several ex-gays brought against Jerry Brown for signing a law that prohibited using the treatments that these men went through as teenagers and young adults on any more teenagers. There is, however, a new suit which the Southern Poverty Law Center is bringing against a reparative therapy for Orthodox Jews in New Jersey which takes up most of the story. The New Jersey defendants are generally SO flawed I'll bet it offended Eckholm so much he didn't bother to flip through his rolodex when he got back from the press conference which Scott Wooledge covers expertly here.
In fact, I'd guess that at least 70% of the article is about the New Jersey case, which Christian Dem in NC wrote about earlier today. So let's see how the story gets told this time, because last time Eckholm described the prohibition in California as a setback for the ex-gay movement and NARTH.
We start out with the idea that these are the first tests the ex-gay people have encountered in a courtroom setting. Okay, I guess, but here's what he has to deal with in New Jersey:
four gay men who tried the therapy filed a civil suit against a prominent counseling group, charging it with deceptive practices under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act."Prominent" feels like an attempt to convey respectability, but it's grasping-at straws time here. Next, we find that in California, the ex-gay men are the plaintiffs, claiming that
the ban is an unconstitutional infringement on speech, religion and privacy.Ah, religious freedom again for people who may or may not be suffering from self-hatred.
Some background now, and here's the crux as Eckholm sees it:
An industry of “reparative therapy” clinics and men’s weekend retreats has drawn thousands of teenagers and adults who hope to rid themselves of homosexual urges, whether because of religious beliefs or family pressures.Industry. Thousands. If you say so.
But leading scientific and medical groups say that the theories of sexuality are unfounded and that there is no evidence that core sexual urges can be changed. They also warn that the therapy can, in the words of the American Psychiatric Association, cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”
So in New Jersey we have an ex-gay program for Orthodox Jews. It's called JONAH, an acronym for Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing run by two men who aren't therapists. The founder, Arthur Goldberg, did so after serving a jail sentence for financial fraud (ex-gay can be lucrative); his colleague, Alan Downing is described as a "life coach" which apparently you don't need a license for in New Jersey. Eckholm observes that they didn't answer his calls. So after interviewing the SPLC layers and two men who were victimized by JONAH, he doesn't call Peter Nicolosi or anyone like that, he moves on to recap the suit in California.
He quotes one person in his discussion of the California suit, and it's someone who's decidedly not a supporter of the ex-gay industry.
Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, said, “The law is clear that the government can prohibit health care practices that are harmful or ineffective.”
If the court accepts the scientific evaluation put forward by the state, he said, “the government is likely to prevail in the end.”
If the court does what Chemerinsky suggests, it won't put religious organizations or church programs out of business but it will strip them of any support from people in the sciences or in the social sciences. Who knows, some of the church programs might look at the prohibition and decide they shouldn't try this either. And how refreshing not to see any bias in this article! I guess the plaintiffs in New Jersey must have very powerful stories about being ripped off.
I guess we've reached a tipping point here too. It's about time!