‘Conversion therapy,’ a practice which purports to be able to ‘treat’ homosexuality, has been widely reviled for years by the mainstream medical establishment. The highly controversial practice is now undergoing its first tests in courts across several American jurisdictions.
Four New Jersey men have brought a civil suit against a counseling group called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, alleging deceptive business practices under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. The lawsuit claims the men were scarred emotionally by the methods used in the therapy, which included beating effigies of their mothers and stripping naked in front of the counselors. The men paid thousands of dollars for the therapy, only to be told that they were at fault for the therapy’s failure.
Meanwhile, in California, a new state law has been signed that bans conversion therapy for minors. The law is being called a milestone for the gay rights movement and has been widely applauded by advocates. The law is being challenged by a coalition of therapists and conservative groups who claim that law infringes on their rights to freedom of speech, religion, and privacy.
The groups claim that male homosexuality is rooted in childhood trauma that stifles normal masculine development. Intriguingly, there seems to be little focus on female homosexuality from these counseling groups.
Medical and scientific authorities have debunked the claims, saying that there is no basis for the groups’ theories on sexuality. Indeed, mainstream mental health groups stopped referring to homosexuality as a disorder in the 1970’s. The American Psychiatric Society is vocal in its disapproval of conversion therapy, warning that the technique can cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”