Apple has pulled the so-called "gay cure" app from its App Store after gay rights activists complained in a massive petition about the message promoted by the Christian group behind the app.
Over 146,000 people signed a petition launched by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights group Truth Wins Out demanding the removal of the Exodus International app, a Christian ministry that helps people with unwanted same-sex attraction.
The Exodus app was removed from the Apple store late Tuesday following a media storm over the issue.
"We are disappointed that Apple has pulled the app and we feel they are ignoring a large group of people within their customer base," Jeff Buchanan, Exodus International's senior director of Church Equipping & Student Ministries, told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Buchanan, who helped develop the app, said Apple's decision is religious discrimination.
"This represents a lack of true religious diversity on the Apple iTunes platform. Currently, if you go to iTunes, you will find hundreds of applications that are specifically targeted to the LGBT community. You'll even find a podcast that is promoted for the gay Christian network.
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"Therefore, we feel there isn't a representation of an opposing worldview or a traditional biblical worldview on sexuality," said Buchanan.
Tuesday's move marks the second time Apple has folded under pressure from gay rights activists when it comes to a Christian-based app. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company yanked the Manhattan Declaration app - a Christian document affirming the sanctity of life, the historic understanding of marriage, and religious liberty - after gay rights activists cried foul through a similar petition.
Like the Manhattan Declaration app, the Exodus app was approved by Apple and given a 4+ rating, meaning it contained no offensive material. In both cases, Apple never communicated with the groups behind the apps before deleting them.
Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told The Christian Post Wednesday that the app was removed because it was deemed offensive.
"We removed the Exodus International app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people," he said.
When asked about the app's 4+ rating, Neumayr said that Apple is not commenting any further other than the statement provided.
While the app was touted as a "gay cure" app by opponents, Buchanan has said the group promotes no such thing. The Exodus app represents information already on the Exodus International website, which included access to the ministry's events, blog, videos, podcasts, and Facebook page.
"Apple needs to evaluate their rating system," said Buchanan. "We are confused as to why they gave us a 4+ rating and now officially declared it as offensive to large groups of people.
"It seems to be that Apple is highly influenced by various activists groups as whether an app is offensive or not."
Executive Director of Truth Wins Out Wayne Besen praised Apple's decision as "wise and responsible."
“This is not a question of free speech, but of stopping a virulently anti-gay organization from peddling false speech at the expense of vulnerable LGBT youth,” added John Becker, Truth Wins Out’s director of communications and development.
The LBGT group had accused Exodus of misusing research on its website, a claim that Buchanan rejected. In the petition, Truth Wins Out also calls Exodus' message "hateful" and "bigoted."
"Exodus International loves the gay community," responded Buchanan. "We love those with unwanted same-sex attraction. Our desire is to present a Christ-centered message to everyone about his redemptive power and his ability to transform everyone's lives."
The Exodus director pointed out that Truth Wins Out is actually the one silencing dialogue and limiting diversity, the same principles promoted by the group.
"This is the same group that is asking for Oprah to fire Lisa Ling for reporting on Exodus International. They are also going after Chick-fil-A and their affiliation with various religious groups and they are responsible for helping pull the Manhattan Declaration back in November," he said.
Buchanan said that people have a choice whether to download the app or not.
"No one needs to download it (Exodus app) if they find it offensive," he said, noting there are many apps that he chooses not to download because he finds them personally offensive.
He said Exodus is asking supporters of the app to contact Apple and ask it be reinstated.
"We simply want the right and ability to proclaim [our] message on various platforms throughout the country."