NEW JERSEY, December 20, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - Charles LiMandri, the president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) has announced that he has accepted the role of lead defense counsel for Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) in a precedent-setting lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

JONAH is a Jewish organization that offers assistance to men and women seeking to resolve their sexual conflicts, focusing specifically on unwanted same-sex attractions.

The SPLC filed a lawsuit against JONAH, alleging the group is guilty of “consumer fraud,” because the therapy will fail to change some people’s sexual orientation.

In taking on the case, Charles LiMandri stated, “The SPLC lawsuit is ill-conceived and legally untenable for multiple reasons. It seeks to violate the First Amendment freedoms of speech, religion. and association—not only of JONAH and the other defendants, but also untold numbers of people in need that stand to benefit from their services.”

“It is the height of intolerance and arrogance for the SPLC to dictate to individuals who experience unwanted same sex attraction and who are seeking help, that they are not entitled to receive such help nor support in a way that respects their personal values,” LiMandri stated. “JONAH and the other defendants will be vigorously defended against these baseless claims to protect not only their Constitutional rights, but also the right of self-determination of all those who wish to resolve their unwanted same sex attractions.”

LiMandri pointed out that since its founding more than 12 years ago, JONAH has helped hundreds of people live the lives that they want, consistent with their personal values.

Arthur Goldberg, JONAH’s co-director, has stated that his organization will vigorously defend itself against a lawsuit that he called “without merit,” and “designed to create a chilling effect upon speech and programs that assist people in overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions.”

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist those with unwanted same-sex attractions,” Goldberg said. “There are thousands of people who have overcome or significantly diminished their unwanted same-sex attractions, not only through our programs, but also through other similar programs.”

“As indicated by the publicity surrounding the event, the lawsuit is designed to create a chilling effect on people and organizations that stand for the position that change is possible, a position that is not contradicted by the APA’s latest statements,” Goldberg said.

JONAH’s mission statement states that “because mankind has been endowed by our Creator with a free will, everyone has the capacity to change. Through psychological and spiritual counseling, peer support, and self-empowerment, JONAH seeks to reunify families, to heal the wounds surrounding homosexuality, and to provide hope.”

The FCDF noted that JONAH has never been the target of a lawsuit until now, and this lawsuit is apparently the result of SPLC advertising in the media for people willing to be named as plaintiffs against JONAH.

The SPLC has labeled numerous pro-family organizations “hate groups” for failing their moral objections to homosexuality.

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Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called the SPLC’s assertion that reparative therapy is a fraud, because not everyone is “cured, equally “as ridiculous as suing Weight Watchers because they promised you’d lose weight and you didn’t.”

“The only people guilty of fraud are the ones who claim people with same-sex attractions can’t change,” he said.

Mr. LiMandri indicated that the FCDF is teaming up with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to litigate the case, which was filed in New Jersey, with the assistance of Michael Laffey, a highly respected New Jersey attorney who is experienced in freedom of speech and religious liberty cases.

The FCDF is a national public interest law firm that specializes in defending freedom of religion and conscience by providing legal services at the trial level.