Four gay men in New York have filed a lawsuit accusing a New Jersey-based group of falsely offering “conversion therapy”, with a view to “reversing” their homosexuality.

The four men attended Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing, or JONAH, based in Jersey City, and spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Tuesday about their experiences. One of the men, Chaim Levin, wrote about his experiences earlier this year in an article for PinkNews.co.uk.

Some had been told to strip naked, others were asked to take baseball bats to effigies of their mothers. The group advertised in various publications, and claimed to be able to “cure” homosexuality.

As well as claiming to be able to “cure” homosexuality, JONAH, which sometimes charges $10,000 (£6250) a year, also claims that that “being gay is a mental disorder that could be reversed with therapy,”

The lawsuit filed by the four men, assisted by the Southern Poverty Law Center claims that JONAH’s methods do not work, and therefore break New Jersey consumer law.

The documents filed also claim that the men were also put at risk of “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior,” by their treatment by ‘therapists’ at the centre.

Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs was Samuel Wolfe, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center. He said:

“This is the first time that plaintiffs have sought to hold conversion therapists liable in a court of law,”

“We really want to this lawsuit to bring attention to this practice that takes place in many parts of the country, preying on vulnerable young people.”

Earlier this year, a state funded Jewish school in North London, JFS, was accused by the Jewish Chronicle of showing students the logo and central message of JONAH. The chief rabbi of Amsterdam was suspended from his position after he signed a document alleging homosexuality could be “modified and healed”.