November 27th, 2012
11:14 PM ET

Lawsuit over therapy to change sexuality

Michael Ferguson tells AC360° that he participated in "very strange" interventions as part of a controversial therapy that was intended to change patients' sexuality from gay to straight.

Now he's suing the New Jersey counseling center Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) with three other men based on consumer-fraud and because of the traumatic experience.

"I was part of a group that formed a human barricade and on the other side of that barricade were a pair of oranges meant to represent another man's testicles. And there was a participant in the exercise who was supposed to break through that barricade and...squeeze them and drink the juice from them, and shove them down his pants. And all this was to symbolize that his homosexuality was related to his lack of masculinity," says Ferguson about one of the activities.

He tells Wolf Blitzer that he suffered from anxiety and depression and thought of hurting himself after trying and failing to do what he was told was possible – switching sexual orientation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing the plaintiffs because they believe JONAH's services have no truth to them, and the outcome could set a precedent for other reparative therapy lawsuits.

"This idea that people can change their sexual orientation by doing these absurd treatments...is just completely fraudulent...we feel very confident we'll succeed in this case," says Christine Sun, deputy legal director of the SPLC.

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Filed under: Gay & Lesbian Issues
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Sean Kicklighter

    As one who wanted to try and "fix" my sexual preference for Men, i started reading "Coming Out Straight" Understanding and Healing Homosexuality by Richard Cohen, M.A. I thought by doing this, not only would i "heal" my Homosexuality it would bring my closer to finding God. 3 pages in i stopped because my tears clouded the words. Thank God this happened, you can not change what God has made. You can not change a tall mountain into a short one, you can not make an ocean a river. It is what it is. God made them that way, just like He made me my way. He Loves us all, he creates everything for a purpose. I had to learn the hard way. But now i am Proud of who and what i am, just like God is.

    December 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  2. Danielle Lugo

    The NASW strictly forbids social workers to even consider "conversion therapies" as effective because they are not evidence based therapies. They've simply been found to do a lot of harm and damage. This has been in the NASW Code of Ethics for years.

    December 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  3. Joe

    Homosexual conversion doesn't work because one can not pick & choose what one is tempted by. However, one may learn how to cope with the temptation.

    November 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  4. WL

    I think I might have seen the original reporting on Dr. Recker
    here on AC360-

    November 29, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  5. Mark Pollock

    It was typical for CNN to present a one-sided position on this issue, The "conversion therapies" presented were admittedly bizarre but are not typical of the treatments being used. I am sorry for the people exposed to these faulty approaches. But the truth is there many people I know who have successfully transitioned from a gay life style to a heterosexual life and are very happy as a result of genuine support and love they have received from their therapists and support system. They may still experience homosexual temptations just like heterosexuals continue to have inappropriate heterosexual sexual temptations but have found ways to manage those without giving into them. My hope is that as a company you will put forth a full exposure to this important issue and not just be agenda pushers.

    November 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • WL

      Respectfully, I disagree with you.

      You should read up on Dr. Recker, the man who invented
      conversion therapy.

      After you do so, you may not want to
      advocate towards fixing what is not

      CNN reports wisely, responsibly and
      you misunderstood my post to Ms. Kaye,
      I am offering her more to prove the points
      she tackled in her impeccable reporting.

      I hope you and your friends continue doing
      well, I hope you all soon realize that you
      can't beat the natural instincts out of any
      living species, including us humans.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • Jane Lane

      What other side is there? Science says this is bunk and does not work. Anecdotal evidence says this is bunk and does not work. Why is it okay for you to push an agenda, but no one else?

      November 29, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Lorilei

      Sir, please show me the empirical evidence proving that your therapy is statistically significant and truly effective. You cannot, because it is based on your faulty annocdotal evidence.
      It also operates from the wrong conclusion that there is something WRONG with being gay in the first place. Perhaps you are the one that is wrong!

      November 29, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Joe

      I couldn't have said it better.

      November 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  6. WL

    Just mulling the report over...
    Ms. Kaye, it would be interesting...
    if your producers could track him
    down again, like today, and ask
    him on camera how he feels about
    psychiatrists out there following
    his doctrine to treat their patients...

    November 28, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  7. WL

    Mr. Blitzer hello,
    Please tell Ms. Kaye
    to look into Dr. Zecker (the expert),
    in her report... the gentleman had
    an incident at MIA.
    Not all what he portrayed himself
    to be to Ms. Kaye...
    I believe he was debunked by
    all his clients, the anti-gay power brokers.
    If the psychiatrist she interviewed, who
    treated the complainants... is claiming to
    follow the teachings of Dr. Recker.
    Read about Dr. Recker, please.
    Thank you, sir.
    *avid fan of all of you

    November 28, 2012 at 1:20 am |