A column in The New American by Selwyn Duke attacks the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for suing the “ex-gay” organization Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH). Duke’s polemic is fact free and as foolish as anything I’ve read this year that didn’t have the byline “Brandon Ambrosino.”
(Duke’s bias is not surprising considering he believes the LGBT community is “the most victimey of victim groups.” Of course, we actually are victims of discrimination and violence at a much greater rate than the rest of society. More pesky facts for Duke to ignore.)
The writer begins his jeremiad with the provocative line:
“It seems as if certain purported civil-rights activists think homosexuals are like some organized-crime groups: You can join the gang, but the only way you can leave is feet first.”
I suppose the same could be said about so-called ex-gay organizations and their anti-gay supporters. These groups simply can’t let a person leave the fundamentalist lifestyle without insults and harassment. Over the past two decades, the LGBT community has been subject to insulting mass advertising campaigns in newspapers, television stations, billboards, and airplanes with message banners urging gay people to leave their loving families and friends to come back to Fundie Land. A vivid example is the behavior of Dr. Michael Brown, who stalks LGBT Pride events in Charlotte by ordering his red shirted followers to swarm the event like locusts while carrying signs that scream “GOD HAS A BETTER WAY.”
The SPLC lawsuit came after JONAH survivors told Truth Wins Out that sexually inappropriate activity occurred with a counselor during JONAH-sponsored therapy sessions. JONAH had also told paying clients that they could be transformed from gay-to-straight — which isn’t true. In essence, the “ex-gay” group made wild promises they couldn’t deliver, while delivering disasters they never promised.
These whistle-blowers courageously came forward even though they risked a backlash from the Orthodox Jewish Community they grew up in. It is absolutely shameful for Duke to blithely dismiss their experiences and defend an abusive organization that harms the very clients it purports to help. JONAH’s leaders arguably commit a form of malpractice too, by posing as medical and mental health experts when they are merely untrained and unqualified anti-gay political activists.
Additionally, the murky financial arrangements of JONAH have long been questioned, because the group places heavy pressure on clients to attend expensive Journey into Manhood (JIM) weekends. These are $650 retreats where clients go off into the woods with often unqualified counselors and other closeted gay men for “non-sexual” cuddle sessions and “manly” activities designed to connect them with their alleged “heterosexual potential.” It remains unclear if JONAH receives any referral money for the many clients they funnel in the absurd JIM program.
Duke quickly undermines his case in support of JONAH by trotting out three unsatisfactory examples of “change” efforts:
1) Daniel Meir Horowitz wrote in a post entitled “A Long, Hard Road: How Reparative Therapy Saved My Life,” “I want to shout to all those plagued by SSA who wish they were not: Don’t give up. Please. Despite what you read and hear in our secular culture about the false idea that change is impossible, a ray of light might be just around the corner.”
2) Nathan wrote, “The insight [JONAH provided] also allows me to see this pattern [of SSA] for what it is not: the thinking that I was born this way as many elements of society continually preach or a belief that my SSA is so ingrained that it can never be overcome.”
3) “Jonah Wife,” whose husband’s SSA had impacted negatively upon their marriage for years, wrote, “[The Therapy] really is working and since JIM [a program JONAH recommends] came into our lives we haven’t had one glitch in our personal life. And that’s really something to shout about!!”
In the first example, Daniel Meir Horowitz writes, “a ray of light might be just around the corner.” This is the quintessential con of “ex-gay” organizations. They cruelly offer false hope and string clients along by promising (for a fee) that they are on the cusp of real transformation. Unfortunately, the next corner only offers more darkness, which mental health experts say can plunge people into deep depressions, cause anxiety, and even self-destructive behaviors.
In the second example, Nathan (who won’t identify himself, so he might not even be a real person.) says that JONAH offers “insight” and allows him to see “patterns.”
Again, this is central to JONAH’s scheme, where they falsely blame bad parenting, particularly distant fathers, or sexual abuse for causing homosexuality. This is not “insight,” but pure ignorance, and could not be further from the truth. There is zero scientific evidence that poor family relationships, family constructs, or sexual misconduct leads to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Anecdotally, I have personally never been sexually molested or physically abused, I played basketball and football, and I am close to my father, all of which JONAH says can’t happen (See picture with Dad). Yet, JONAH unconscionably peddles such junk science and anachronistic theories as scientific fact. Indeed, it is difficult to find an organization with more scientific illiteracy, that feigns expertise for the purposes of ideological extremism and profit.
The third example is a tragedy. Instead of having a heterosexual husband that finds her physically attractive, this poor woman is married to a man who prefers to sleep with dudes. She clearly implies that her husband has hooked up with men during their marriage when she says, “since JIM we haven’t had one glitch in our personal life.” Well, at least that she knows about. There are countless examples of such arranged marriages that end badly because the gay person is, well, gay. This woman would do herself a favor by contacting The Straight Spouse Network for support. Her husband has not become straight, but has been pressured into repressing is natural sexual orientation. While people can use willpower to do this for a period of time, it is unusual that such methods last a lifetime. Of course, men like Duke rarely care about the sexual satisfaction of women. If they happen to be collateral damage in a religious experiment gone awry, so be it.
The intellectual sloppiness and lack of research in Duke’s column is striking when he writes:
But Goldberg offers more than just anecdotes. He also told me, “About two thirds of the clients referred to us report significant reductions in their unwanted behaviors and feelings. These results are consistent with other programs that utilize both spiritual and psychological work to help people seeking to change.” Given this track record, it’s not surprising that those helped by JONAH are upset that pro-SSA activists are trying to squelch their freedom.
Duke conveniently fails to inform his readers that Arthur Abba Goldberg, who co-founded JONAH, is a Wall Street criminal mastermind who was convicted in 1987 of “fraud of spectacular scope.” Upon completing parole, Goldberg reinvented himself as a moral leader who “cures” gay and lesbian people. Known as “Abba Dabba Do” in the financial world, Goldberg was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes and served six months in prison. But, I guess the inconvenient fact that Goldberg is a crook means nothing to Duke, a supposed journalist, who blindly took his fake statistics at face value.
And what about those magical statistics? When Goldberg uses the number “two-thirds,” this fraction has to derive from a base number. Yet, the cagey Goldberg won’t provide the raw numbers to show how he arrived at the 2/3 figure. Indeed, if the success-rate is so high, why does his racket have such enormous trouble finding clients to claim they had gone from gay-to-straight? Why could he not provide satisfied clients to testify in Trenton last year when New Jersey banned conversion therapy for minors, even though his outfit is based in Jersey City? (The “ex-gay” activists actually flew in someone to testify from California) If Goldberg can’t provide the underlying statistics he is a fraud and Duke is a hack with no credibility for regurgitating such phony numbers from a convicted felon without first verifying that Goldberg is telling the truth. Furthermore, Goldberg has never provided physical measures, such as penile plethysmograph tests, to verify if his clients have lost their same-sex feelings.
Next, Duke uses sophistry and plays pseudo-historian, psychologist, and molecular biologist, showing that he knows next to nothing about any of these disciplines:
Homosexuality was institutionalized in Spartan military camps — which all boys were conscripted into at age seven — during the city-state’s mid and late periods. And widely practiced homosexual behavior was common in much of ancient Greece. For example, we understand that the Sacred Band of Thebes warrior group comprised pederastic man-youth pairings. This raises a question: Did all, or most, ancient Greeks have a “gay gene” or some other inborn cause of SSA? Logic dictates that their homosexuality was a purely psychological phenomenon (in many cases, if not most) that was culturally promoted and approved.
Now, has the human mind undergone some great transformation since the Hellenic period that would account for how SSA could never, ever be a purely psychological phenomenon today? Is it reasonable to say that it couldn’t be purely psychological in even one out of 1,000 cases? That would be a radical position.
But if it can be so, then it could be psychological in two out of 1,000 cases, or 30, 50, or 50 percent of them, correct? So at this point — even if we accept, for argument’s sake, that SSA could be inborn or at least have inborn factors — you’d have to admit that you really can’t know which cases are congenital and which are purely psychological.
Duke seems so clueless that he can’t even tell the difference between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, nor can he distinguish between raping children and consensual adult sexual relationships. Indeed, pedophilia has zero to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality. Gay and straight men and women are oriented towards having sexual and romantic relations with adults and find the idea of sex with children nauseating. A 2000 study by Dr. Michael R. Stevenson concluded, “A gay man is no more likely than a straight man to perpetrate sexual activity on children.” A 1994 study by Dr. Carole Jenny found that less than one-percent of the children in her study were abused by a gay man or lesbian. In 1978, Drs. Nicholas Groth and Jean Birnbaum found that none of the 175 molesters in their study had an exclusively homosexual adult orientation.
Oddly, Duke seems to think that homosexuality was unique to Ancient Greek culture. In reality it is a natural phenomenon that is part of the animal kingdom and every human culture.
Duke makes the mistake of further highlighting his ignorance by delving deeper into science:
Of course, there are people with SSA who defend the inborn thesis with the claim, “I’ve had these feelings my whole life.” This is a tendentious conclusion, however. This is not just because they’re extrapolating their own experience to all people with SSA, but also because we don’t have memories from prior to the age of three, four or five. So all these individuals can really say is, “I’ve had these feelings for as long as I can remember.” And what occurs during those tender, lost-memory years can have profound and far-reaching effects.
Moreover, what is the nature of these feelings? As Goldberg points out, since young children don’t have libidos and generally aren’t sexual, what the individuals in question actually sense is that they feel “different.” But identifying as homosexual? Hardly.
The point here is that the SPLC and other activists aren’t basing their opposition to SSA therapy on reason or science. As to this, note that no “gay gene” has ever been found; moreover, theories pertaining to hormonal anomalies during intrauterine development are at best inconclusive. So this raises a question: Why are these activists so opposed to SSA therapy? I doubt it’s really because they think it’s fruitless and will harm people in its failure…
You see, the pro-homosexuality lobby has made it a dogma in recent times that same-sex attractions are inborn and cannot be changed, in an effort to legitimize homosexual behavior. The idea is that if you were made that way, how can it be questioned? In fact, you will often hear pro-SSA activists say, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” And, no, He doesn’t, but the line of reasoning here is nonetheless mistaken.
Actually, there is a mountain of evidence for showing that homosexuality is a biological phenomenon that is influenced by genes. Dr. Marc Breedlove, a Rosenberg Professor of Neuroscience at Michigan State University, says:
“There is plenty of evidence that genes play a role in the development of sexual orientation. I don’t know of any reputable scientists who are working on this who don’t agree on that. There is not even any controversy on this among scientists. Of course, genes influence sexual orientation.”
But understanding complex subjects doesn’t seem like Duke’s strong suit. However, if he is interested, here is a tutorial:
While there is plenty of evidence showing that sexual orientation is inborn and not a choice, there is no evidence on the efficacy of conversion therapy, which is a cruel and bizarre practice based on outdated stereotypes designed to stigmatize and demonize LGBT people. The press release headline and sub-headline from the American Psychological Association’s landmark 2009 report on “ex-gay” therapy summarizes the truth:
“No evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work, says APA….Practitioners should avoid telling clients that they can change from gay to straight.”
So, what does JONAH do? In open defiance of the APA’s clear warning, it brazenly tells prospective clients that there is a ton of evidence that shows sexual orientation change efforts work, and promises clients that they can become straight through its therapy referral services. Yet, shills like Duke still pretend that there is no basis for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s landmark lawsuit accusing JONAH of consumer fraud.
I’ll end by showing Duke and other supporters of JONAH a vivid example of the peculiar form of therapy they are defending. Sometimes a video of Richard Cohen, JONAH”s favorite therapist, is worth thousands of words: