In a conversation Friday on his Internet-only radio show, “Washington Watch Weekly,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that the largely-discredited practice of anti-LGBT conversion therapy is a “compassionate,” “non-judgmental” way for LGBT people to find “wholeness.”
According to Right Wing Watch, Perkins was speaking with “con man and ex-gay group leader Arthur Goldberg,” a representative of the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) –formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality — a Jewish “ex-gay” organization which is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The SPLC has filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court alleging that JONAH founders Goldberg and Alan Dowling violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act when they claimed that their group’s regimen of prayer and spiritual study could “cure” homosexuality. This is the first time a religious conversion therapy group has been sued on the grounds of fraudulent business practices, according to the SPLC.
On “Washington Watch,” Goldberg dismissed the importance of the lawsuit, claiming that it is merely part of a “pre-planned agenda” aimed at convincing the world that sexual orientation is immutable and not changeable by outside forces.
Perkins replied by calling the lawsuit, in which the SPLC is representing four former JONAH clients, “frivolous.”
“This lawsuit, I would say it looks frivolous to me, it’s kind of novel,” he said. “using a consumer law, consumer fraud is what they’re challenging here, that you’re promising one thing and not delivering. It’s kind of outrageous I think.”
Goldberg’s response was to compare his group to the weight-loss program Weight Watchers, and to say that if the four plaintiffs represented by the SPLC weren’t rid of their same sex attractions, then they just weren’t trying hard enough.
He said, “Their theory is basically if someone goes to Weight Watchers and says ‘I want to lose fifty pounds’ and they don’t lose fifty pounds, they’re going to say, ‘oh Weight Watchers you promised me you’d help me lose fifty pounds and I didn’t lose fifty pounds,’ same basic theory.”
Later in the conversation, Perkins said, “I think we’ve got to be very clear here. You’re here to help those who want help and it’s a compassionate help, a nonjudgmental help for those seeking a wholeness that has been eluding them in their current lifestyle.”
“Precisely,” replied Goldberg.
The state of California has outlawed conversion therapy for minors, deeming it a form of child abuse. On Wednesday of this week, California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called upon the rest of the country to follow suit.
“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Any effort to change sexual orientation is not medicine, it’s quackery, and we should not be supporting it with taxpayer dollars,” said Speier at a rally to launch a national, non-binding resolution called Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK).
The resolution, co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and David Cicilline (D-RI), also notes that no persuasive medical evidence supports conversion therapy, and cites the numerous medical and scientific groups that have spoken out against “ex-gay” therapy.
In 2010, the SPLC added Perkins’ FRC to its list of hate groups operating in the U.S. on the basis that it “knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people.” An attack by a disturbed individual on the FRC offices in Washington earlier this year provided fodder for Perkins to claim that the group was being unfairly maligned.
SPLC “Hatewatch” blogger Mark Potok responded to those allegations by writing, “Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC’s criticisms of the FRC and the FRC’s criticisms of LGBT people.”
“The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false,” Potok wrote. “It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people.”