All indications are that the religious right is rallying to the defense of Jews Offering Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), the "pray away the gay" outfit that is facing a lawsuit from four former clients who claim JONAH defrauded them and used degrading methods of "therapy." On paper, this shouldn't be surprising. The suit seeks to shut down JONAH for numerous violations of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Protection Act--and if successful, it could make it a lot easier to expose conversion therapy as the hoakum that it is.
But when you look further into it, you really have to wonder why the fundies are mounting a full-throated defense of JONAH. After all, back in the 1980s its founder, Arthur Goldberg, was the mastermind of one of the largest investment frauds uncovered during the 1980s. From 1984 to 1986, Goldberg and his firm, Matthews & Wright, convinced several cities to buy $2 billion worth of fraudulent municipal bonds. If that wasn't bad enough, all indications were that he deliberately targeted impoverished communities with large minority populations. For instance, he got East St. Louis, Illinois--a city that at the time had almost half of its residents out of work--to raise $223 million for a riverfront housing development. He also got Guam to raise $300 million for single-family housing. Facing over 60 counts of fraud in Guam and Illinois (though the Guamanian case had to be moved to Los Angeles because so many of that island's residents had been bilked), Goldberg pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud in 1989 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. As I mentioned on Friday, Goldberg managed to conceal his criminal past until Truth Wins Out and South Florida Gay News exposed it in 2010. Read South Florida Gay News' writeup here and Truth Wins Out's writeup here.
The fundie response seems obvious--"Oh, but Goldberg has repented of his crimes, so they shouldn't be held against him anymore." Except that doesn't appear to be the case. Soon after the SFGN/TWO exposé, Goldberg wrote a letter to his colleagues on the board of NARTH, of which he was executive secretary at the time. Ex-Gay Watch got its hands on the letter.
The reason why Goldberg wrote the letter tells you all you need to know about him--he felt he had to do so "so that all of you may have some idea of what was involved." Which means he never disclosed his criminal past to NARTH--something that would be unthinkable in any organization. Indeed, NARTH's vice president of operations at the time said that the first he heard about Goldberg's crimes was in that letter. Then, rather than express any sort of remorse for his crimes, he instead claimed he only made a mistake and was forced to plead guilty due to not having any resources to fight the charges.
During the 1980′s, my firm and many others attempted to “grandfather” several bond issues of our clients in order to beat the deadline of the 1986 federal tax law changes. These deal structures were challenged and ultimately 2 separate criminal legal actions were filed against me. After fighting for several years and running out of resources, I determined it was in the best interests of my family, myself, and my firm that I plead guilty to the minor counts of the indictment. In both actions, the guilty plea involved a finding that no intentional fraud took place. Rather the conduct for which I fully accepted punishment involved conduct that would be sufficient to constitute fraud under the relevant statutes – even though non-intentional. In fact, one of the pre-sentencing reports specifically found that no one involved in the transactions in question lost any money whatsoever on the transactions and that I did not receive personal enrichment from the transactions. Nevertheless, I accepted full responsibility for my negligent actions.However, this is belied by eyewitness reports that Goldberg described his scheme as "selling bonds to the cannibals," and that he didn't care whether any of the housing was ever built. Translation--Goldberg knew damned well what he was doing.
Additionally, Goldberg claimed the revelations about his past were an attempt by those evil, evil gays to smear his name and derail the entire ex-gay movement.
Of course, the strategy employed by those who wish to dig around for dirt in someone’s past, in this case for incidents that occurred in 1986, or about 25 years ago, is totally consistent with the Kirk and Madsen thesis which is set forth in “After the Ball.” Remember point 8 in their game plan–”make opponents look bad: portray them as evil and victimizing.” They stated in the book that those perceived as opponents of the gay movement were to be attacked and vilified. This was to be the final step in the media campaign Kirk and Madsen so carefully laid out to establish “gay rights.” So, if you are able to do a character assassination of the proponents, so goes the theory, then you can kill the message they represent. However, I would hope that rational people would not succumb to such demagoguery. I also believe that bitter personal attacks are often the last refuge of those who fear the truth and are not able to discuss the merits of an issue. In truth, I believe that our message is gaining traction and will eventually prevail.So that's what it is, huh? Pointing out that you're not only a convicted felon, but someone who actively preyed on disadvantaged communities, is just an attempt to "dig around for dirt." As a black man, I find this insulting in the extreme. And I would think someone like Harry Jackson would be outraged as well if he knew about this.
Regardless of where you stand on gay rights, it is simply incomprehensible that Goldberg refuses to acknowledge what he did, that it was wrong, and to apologize to the victims. Perhaps he hid his past because he knew that if it was known he'd committed such monstrous crimes, no one would touch him with a 10-foot pole.
So now the ball is in the religious right's court. Is it so desperate to derail equal rights for gays that it is willing to crawl into bed with a guy who actively preyed on the disadvantaged?
12:23 PM PT: Since this made the rec list, I thought I'd also mention that after initially claiming the attacks on Goldberg were an attempt to smear NARTH as a whole, the organization announced that Goldberg had resigned from the NARTH board. Pruden confirmed that no one at NARTH had known about Goldberg's criminal past before, and said that the revelations "came as a complete shock to NARTH members and to our organization." So NARTH at least had the good sense to push Goldberg out. But will the rest of the religious right think twice about its support of this guy?