Ex-gays vs. Jews

Two months ago, I wrote columns for the Daily Caller  and the Times of Israel sharply dissenting from the claim of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) that anyone (yes, they say anyone) “can choose to disengage from their same-sex sexual fantasies, arousals, behavior and identity – if motivated and supported in that process.” Though JONAH is wrong on the science, the ethics, and the Jewish attitude toward homosexuality, I still supported their defense against a fraud lawsuit in New Jersey because I fear chilling effects on therapy and freedom of conscience.

But I cannot back them anymore.

A few days ago, I learned that the lead counsel for JONAH, Charles LiMandri, is a close ally of the Alliance Defending Freedom  (ADF), a self-described “legal ministry” focused on religious freedom cases. ADF has a policy of openly discriminating against Jews, even for posts as Web writers and secretaries. Their Web site tries to prevent potential Jewish applicants from even learning what jobs are available – and their positions don’t just bar Jews, but also those Christians who don’t believe Jews are going to Hell.

Oh, and ADF claims to be “an Equal Opportunity employer.”

But wait, someone might suggest, a group is only anti-Semitic if they hate Jews, and ADF claims to love Jews. But defines anti-Semitism as “discrimination against or prejudice or hostility toward Jews.” Certainly, if ADF is a ministry, it can require the ministers it hires to share its belief system. But barring Jews from answering phones and designing Web sites is not an expression of Christian faith. It’s blatant bigotry and should not be tolerated in America.

If a law firm can declare itself a ministry and thereby discriminate against Jews even for positions that have nothing to do with religion, why not other non-profits like the United States Olympic Committee and the Humane Society? The Sierra Club could become an “environmental ministry” and fire any Jews on its secretarial staff, and the American Heart Association could be a “health ministry” and refuse to hire Jewish doctors.

And even if non-profit organizations should be legally allowed to discriminate against Jews, that doesn’t make it wise or admirable to be allied with those that do.

When I stumbled across LiMandri’s affiliation with ADF, I contacted him in hopes that he had disavowed the group or at least expressed disagreement with their anti-Semitic hiring practices. Nope.

On the contrary, he said his colleagues at ADF were “people of goodwill” and boasted that they “have been very supportive of our work in the JONAH case” and that together they are “working hard to defend” what he called the “Judeo-Christian worldview.”

(For those who don’t know, the phrase “Judeo-Christian worldview” is another way of saying “Christian worldview,” because while many Christian ideas grew out of Judaism, precisely zero Jewish ideas grew out of Christianity.)

On some level, the alliance between JONAH and an anti-Semitic organization should come as no surprise. In fact, anybody paying attention already knows that JONAH’s secular Jewish leadership would rather see a Jew struggling with same-sex attractions become a straight Christian than a gay Jew.

For example, their Web site strongly promotes Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, a book by Jewish-identified psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Satinover that quotes the New Testament far more than the Old.

The documents included at include one that cites a Ben Newman without identifying his religion, though his surname is not uncommon among Jews. Newman said his “healing” is “now focused more on others rather than on myself,” with specific reference to the words of Jesus in Luke 22:32: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

And on 83 separate occasions, JONAH’s site mentions Jewish apostate (but “ex-gay” champion) Richard Cohen – without a word of condemnation or even criticism. When I first became aware of JONAH more than a decade ago, the group even boasted that Cohen, who left Judaism decades ago to become a Moonie and later a more mainstream Christian, was a member of their advisory board.

Other Christian organizations promoted on the JONAH Web site with no caveats include Regeneration Ministries, One By One, Living Stones Ministries, and the now-defunct Evergreen International and Exodus International.

Perhaps most important, JONAH concepts like helping gays “recover their heterosexual potential” and people “breaking down old patterns of avoidance and defensive detachment from their own sex” are drawn right out of the Catholic natural law philosophy of ex-gay pioneer Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. There is no Torah source supporting those Christian ideas.

As an Orthodox Jew, I have no business telling Christians what they should or should not believe. But I can certainly complain when an organization dresses up Christian beliefs as if they were Jewish (with naïve support from parents and rabbis) to mentally torture precious Jewish souls – often quite young – who are struggling to reconcile same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.

On Friday, a court ruled that the plaintiffs in the New Jersey case can recover triple damages for costs related to any harms they suffered under JONAH’s techniques. I remain nervous that a court victory by the plaintiffs will cause gay-supportive groups to run around the country trying to bankrupt organizations and individuals that don’t agree with them.

But the defendants in this specific case are allied with a group that won’t hire Jews – and they are so opposed to homosexuality that they’d prefer helping Jewish young people transition into straight Christians rather than gay Jews.

Enough is enough.

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About the Author
David Benkof is a St. Louis-based writer and former faculty member at Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell’s in Jerusalem. He has a master's degree in modern Jewish history from Stanford. Follow him on Facebook or E-mail him at