JERSEY CITY -- In a first-of-its-kind legal challenge to gay conversion therapy, the lawyer defending this controversial practice has taken pains to assert that his clients do not judge people for being gay, but simply offer their services to those gay people who wish to change their sexual orientation.
“If you chose to live your life as gay, fine. We wish you well. We’re not judging you,” Charles LiMandri said in describing his clients' views during opening statements in the New Jersey state court trial last week. His clients run Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, a conversion therapy center in Jersey City.
Whether or not his clients make no judgments, however, LiMandri himself seems to have a different take on the matter.
LiMandri is president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, a legal advocacy group whose stated mission is to “defend religious freedom.” In a radio interview released on YouTube last week (and highlighted by LGBT support group Good As You), he described the gay rights movement as engaging in “spiritual warfare” and an “evil that is being inflicted on society.”
He also equated the work of gay rights activists with that of Satan.
When asked by "Catholic Answers," a radio show “dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world,” whether he anticipated a backlash against gay activists for their work, LiMandri said, “I predicted that, and the more the side overplays its hand -- it is spiritual warfare, and as we know, Satan does frequently overplay his hand.”
The interviewer later asks him to “finesse” his comment on Satan. “I know what you mean. But what did you not mean? You’re not saying gays are satanic?”
LiMandri agreed that he was not saying any individual is evil. “We’re not judging anyone; that’s God’s business,” he said, before doubling down on the idea that the push for gay rights is, in fact, evil. “But you know I’m not alone. The last three popes I have mentioned have said this is an evil that is being inflicted on society.”
For the next several weeks, a New Jersey jury will hear the case of Ferguson v. JONAH, the lawsuit brought by four young men and two of their parents accusing the conversion therapy center of fraudulently claiming that its services could "cure" a person's sexual orientation.
Watch the interview above. To read an in-depth investigation into gay conversion therapy, check out HuffPost's story "Straight Talk: How Mathew Shurka And His Conversion Therapist Renounced The 'Gay Cure.'" For HuffPost’s previous trial coverage, go here and here.