USA Today has posted an op-ed by a staunch defender of ‘ex-gay’ therapy who defends institutions which continue to offer the service, despite a consensus among medical professionals that it can be harmful, and various lawsuits challenging the legality of offering such services.

The op-ed by Nicholas Cummings was posted by USA Today. Cummings is a therapist, and personally offered ‘gay cure’ therapy between 1959 and 1979, reports ThinkProgress.

He specifically defends Jewish ex-gay group JONAH, which is the subject of a lawsuit in which several men who underwent the therapy accuse the group of consumer fraud.

According to its website, JONAH is: “the only Jewish based organization dedicated to assisting individuals with unwanted same sex attractions move from gay to straight.”

Last year four gay men in New York filed a lawsuit accusing the New Jersey-based group of falsely offering “conversion therapy”, which was not effective, and should not be advertised as a “cure” for being gay.

In his op-ed Cummings writes: “Of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful. I believe that our rate of success with reorientation was relatively high because we were selective in recommending therapeutic change efforts only to those who identified themselves as highly motivated and were clinically assessed as having a high probability of success.

“Whatever the situation at an individual clinic, accusing professionals from across the country who provide treatment for fully informed persons seeking to change their sexual orientation of perpetrating a fraud serves only to stigmatize the professional and shame the patient.”

Gay rights groups have condemned the piece, saying that USA Today should not have published it, given the strong consensus among most medical professionals that the practice is at least ineffective, if not harmful to those who undergo it.

Many health organisations condemn the practice, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organisation.

Those opposed to it have agreed that it can cause serious and long-term harm.

The four men who filed the lawsuit against JONAH attended sessions in Jersey City, and spoke at a press conference in Manhattan about their experiences.

One of the men who attended JONAH, 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.