Apple Yanks ’Ex Gay’ App
The smart phone application from Exodus International that sparked an outcry and prompted a petition to Apple has disappeared from iTunes, according to media reports.
The Exodus app was popularly perceived as "gay cure" via smart phone, said a March 22 NW32.com article from Denver news channel KWGH.
However, Exodus International characterized the app as a resource for users who wished to find relief from "unwanted same sex attractions," in the words of spokesperson Jeff Buchanan.
Among other things, the app listed dates and locations for Love Won Out, a workshop sponsored by anti-gay group Focus on the Family. Its seminars claim that with prayer and therapy, gays can "convert" to heterosexuality. Love Won Out has made the controversial assertion that "same-sex attraction is a preventable and treatable condition."
The app was released on Feb. 15.
Truth Wins Out, an organization headed by Wayne Besen that counters Love Won Out, started a petition for the app’s removal from iTunes and quickly gathered more than 150,000 signatures, noted Techland.com on March 23. Less than a week elapsed between the petition’s launch at Change.org and the app being taken down, the article said.
"Dr. Gary Remafedi--a Univ. of Minnesota professor who claims that findings from his research were distorted by Exodus International--also requested that Apple remove the app from the App Store," noted the Techland article.
Supporters noted that the app had a rating of 4+, meaning that it did "not contain objectionable content," but critics noted that this only means that supporters of the application had voted en masse for that rating to be assigned.
"The real issue: Apple has no coherent policy about what kind of content gets approved and remains in iTunes," said Cult of Mac in a March 22 article.
Cult of Mac was among the first sites to report that the app had disappeared. "Our obsessive checking for it just showed that poof! The Exodus International app was no more," the article stated.
Truth Wins Out was cautious about not declaring victory prematurely, posting a message at Change.org that read, "Does that means Apple has pulled the app, like more than 140,000 customers have asked? It’s hard to tell; Apple hasn’t issued an official statement yet. Until they do, it’s important that we keep up the pressure, so that Apple hears loud and clear that ’ex-gay’ therapy deserve no place in the App Store."
The petition kept accepting new signatories, surpassing 150,000.
But Exodus International signaled defeat with a tweet from Alan Chambers, president of the group, who sent a message reading "It’s official, the @ExodusInl App is no longer in the @AppStore. Incredibly disappointing. Watch out, it could happen to you. #freedom"
Chambers also issued a statement to the effect that Christians suffer persecution, but that it is part of their role as defenders of God’s word and exemplars of compassion and patience.
"If we [gathered] 150,000 signature to pull [a gay] app, it would be seen as intolerant and homophobic," said Chambers, according to a March 23 Christianity Today article. "We wouldn’t do that because we believe of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the public sphere. As Christians, we bear the brunt of it because the other side sees it as an antiquated expression."
Anti-gay religious organizations have long claimed that legal and social equality for gays could only come at the cost of freedom of religious expression. But opponents of the app said that it promoted "hatred and bigotry."
Opposition to equality for GLBT individuals and their families is often rooted in religious convictions that homosexuality is "sinful." While some faiths, such as the Roman Catholic Church, teach that gays do not "choose" their sexual orientation, many faiths nonetheless regard sexual expression between consenting adults of the same gender to be morally unacceptable. Moreover, many faith traditions do not agree that homosexuality is an innate characteristic, arguing that GLBTs can, and should, "choose" to be heterosexual. To that end, "reparative therapy" and other forms if "conversion": to heterosexuality is offered to--and in some cases, forced upon--gays.
Buchanan told Christian news service CBN in an interview that his organization had nothing but "love" for the gays to whom it offered a "cure" for homosexuality.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about who we are and what our message is, and those misconceptions continue to be reiterated," Buchanan said. "What we’re wanting is simply the right and the opportunity to be able to have a diverse voice or have equal representation on the iTunes platform within Apple, to represent our message of a Biblical worldview of sexuality."
Buchanan went on to say that "every one of those allegations and every one of those statements" made at Change.org about his group "are not true. We love those who struggle with same-sex attraction or who are gay, and we simply want to communicate the message of Jesus and the message of Christ to them, and help the church to become equipped in order to know how to redemptively respond to this issue."
However, text at the Exodus site characterized same-sex commitment as lying outside of "sexual integrity," telling readers, "No one is saying that the journey to sexual holiness and integrity is easy. It requires strong motivation, hard work, and perseverance.
"But hundreds of men and women have experienced a great degree of personal transformation-attaining abstinence from homosexual behaviors, lessening of homosexual temptations, strengthening their sense of masculine or feminine identity, correcting distorted styles of relating with members of the same and opposite gender," text at the site continued. "Some of these men and women marry and some don’t, but marriage is not the measuring stick; spiritual growth and obedience are."
The site also claimed that "cures" for gays are cited in the Bible.
"In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gives a list of all kinds of sinners that will not inherit the kingdom of God, including those that practice homosexuality. But he goes on to say, ’and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ Some Corinthian Christians had formerly been involved in homosexuality, but now were counted among the saints. Now, that’s good news indeed!"
Scholars have noted that the roots of Old Testament condemnation of homosexuality lay in the need for ancient Semites to distinguish their religion from the beliefs and practices of other religions of the era. Some of those religions practiced animal sacrifice to their gods; others included rituals involving sexual conduct, including sexual contact between persons of the same gender. It is unclear whether the New Testament passage referenced by Exodus refers to the practices of other religions or to matters of human sexuality apart from such rites.
The Exodus site also claimed that human sexuality--which is known to be somewhat fluid within individually varying ranges, but which researchers nonetheless believe is fixed and inborn--can be shifted.
"[B]oth retrospective (looking backwards in time) and prospective (observation in real time) studies have discovered that shifts in desire, fantasy and behavior from same-sex toward opposite sex can occur, and that the attempt to make these changes is not inherently harmful," the text claimed.
Some individuals have exhibited success in shifting from one sexual identity to another. For many "ex gays," however, heterosexuality entails a daily "struggle" against recurring sexual desire for individuals of the same gender. Other "ex gays" have said that they have triumphed over their homosexuality, but only at the cost of any sexual response at all, becoming "asexual."
Unclear is whether individuals who report an actual shift in their sexual desires were ever gay or lesbian to begin with. Adolescents often pass through a phase of sexual experimentation that includes same-sex encounters. Other individuals may be bisexuals who choose to ignore feelings of attraction for members of the same gender.
Even so, the text at the Exodus site delivers an upbeat, unambiguous message. "Is there realistic hope that men and women who experience same-sex attraction can overcome those temptations and lead a life of sexual integrity? Can they reasonably expect a time when same-sex attraction will no longer dominate their existence, determine their behavior, or define their identity? The answer to those questions is yes!"
Others are far less certain. Mental health professionals warn that "reparative therapy" and other modalities claiming to "cure" gays can do more damage than good.
The petition at Change.org also expressed skepticism at claims that gays can be "cured" of homosexuality or "converted" to heterosexuality.
"Exodus’ message is hateful and bigoted," text at the site read. "They claim to offer ’freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ’ and use scare tactics, misinformation, stereotypes and distortions of LGBT life to recruit clients.
"They endorse the use of so-called ’reparative therapy’ to ’change’ the sexual orientation of their clients, despite the fact that this form of ’therapy’ has been rejected by every major professional medical organization including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association," the text added. "But reparative therapy isn’t just bad medicine--it’s also very damaging to the self-esteem and mental health of its victims."
Besen had spoken out earlier about another app, Confession: A Roman Catholic App, which asked users to reflect upon their sins by asking questions such as, "Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?" Besen said that the app promoted not virtue, but rather "neurosis."
"This is cyber spiritual abuse that promotes backward ideas in a modern package," Besen charged. "Gay Catholics don’t need to confess, they need to come out of the closet and challenge anti-gay dogma."
Saying that the application was "helping to create neurotic individuals who are ashamed of who they are," Besen slammed the very notion of homosexuality as being inherently sinful. "The false idea that being gay is something to be ashamed of has destroyed too many lives," Besen asserted. "This iPhone app is facilitating and furthering the harm."
LGBTQNation reported on Feb. 10 that the app was the product of three designers in Indiana who had worked with two socially conservative priests. Lawmakers in Indiana recently advanced a resolution to amend the state’s constitution in a way that would ban both marriage equality and civil unions.
Anti-gay religious proscription also made headlines when a Pennsylvania man murdered a friend by bludgeoning him with a sock full of stones. The suspect, 28-year-old John Thomas, told police that he had killed 70-year-old Murray Seidman because the older man had made sexual advances toward him. Thomas said that he had consulted Scripture, where, he claimed, the stoning deaths of gay men were commanded. Thomas also claimed to have been given a "message" while praying that he should kill Seidman.
Subsequent media reports said that Thomas was named sole heir and executor by Seidman before he killed the older man.
Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr addressed the Exodus app having been taken down in commentary made to CNET News. "[I]t violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people," Neumayr said, a March 23 CNET News article reported.
"Apple made a wise and responsible decision to dump an offensive app that demonized gay and lesbian people," a statement from Besen said. "The real winners today are LGBT youth who are safer and less at risk for receiving Exodus’ malice and misinformation."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.