The Rabbinical Council of America has confirmed that it no longer endorses reparative therapies that aim to turn gay people straight.

The council, the largest professional association of Orthodox rabbis in the world, issued a statement on the issue in the wake of the filing of a lawsuit against a group called JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) in New Jersey.

JONAH has been accused of consumer fraud for claiming that it can help “individuals with unwanted same sex attractions move from gay to straight”.

The council admitted that in January, 2004 it had, in a letter, suggested that rabbis refer congregants to JONAH for reparative therapy. The letter has been used on the JONAH website to give the organisation credibility.

The council went on to say that since 2004 “many concerns about JONAH and reparative therapy have been raised”.

It explained that: “Based on consultation with a wide range of mental health experts and therapists who informed us of the lack of scientifically rigorous studies that support the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation, a review of literature written by experts and major medical and mental health organizations, and based upon reports of the negative and, at times, deleterious consequences to clients of some of the interventions endorsed by JONAH, the Rabbinical Council of America decided in 2011, as part of an overall statement on the Jewish attitude towards homosexuality, to withdraw its original letter referencing JONAH.”

The council emphasised that it had repeatedly requested that JONAH removes its letter from its website to no avail.

Efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression have been widely discredited, and have also been proven harmful to children and adults. Major medical and mental health organisations around the world have denounced the practice, including the World Health Organisation.

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