The founders of a New Jersey gay conversion therapy firm now have to pay $3.5 million.
According to NJ.com, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) went against a 2015 settlement agreeing that the organization would never engage in conversion therapy again. Because of that, the Jersey City-based group now has to pay a $3.5 million fine.
The lawsuit began in 2012 when four former clients sued the organization. They claimed JONAH caused psychological abuse during the conversion therapy sessions. The lawsuit also listed some of the offenses. One entry explained that clients had to undress in front of each other while another session had them pummel effigies of their mothers.
As the New York Times reported in 2015, the settlement demanded that JONAH founders Arther Goldberg and Elaine Berk pay $3.5 million. The pair then negotiated the fine down to $400,000. They also promised to not engage in conversion therapy again. If they did, they would have to pay $3.5 million. And now, guess what they’ve done.
The four plaintiffs returned to court after hearing that Goldberg and Berk had gone against the 2015 ruling. A trial court judge agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled in their favor. The organization’s founders then appealed the decision, but an appellate court panel stuck by the decision.
“From late December 2015 to late May 2018, there were numerous email exchanges in which Goldberg, and to a lesser extent Berk, communicated with people seeking conversion therapy and therapists providing conversion therapy. They also followed up to ensure that they received referral fees,” the appellate ruling said.
The court found that Goldberg and Berk violated the original settlement just two weeks after agreeing to it. They also created a new organization called the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA). JIFGA, however, “was a successor in interest and continuation of JONAH.”
If Berk and Goldberg can’t pay the fine, they could face time in prison.