Apple Removes Ministry App Aimed at Battling Habitual Sins

The Apple Corporation has recently pulled from its iTunes store a mobile app created by Setting Captives Free, a nondenominational ministry which offers free courses aimed at helping users battle "habitual sins," such as sexual impurity, substance abuse, self-injury, and gambling.

The app was pulled by Apple following protest over one of the courses, titled "Door of Hope," seeks to free users from "the bondage of homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ and the cross!"

"If you will apply the biblical principles found here, you can walk through the Door of Hope into a new life with Christ, free from sexual impurity and self-gratification," the course description reads.

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The Apple store reportedly removed the app after the group AllOut circulated a petition, signed by 65,000 people, which denounced the app as being capable of causing "terrible harm to lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people, or anyone forced to try to change who they are or who they love."

Apple reportedly confirmed to MacWorld that the Setting Captives Free app violates the company's developer guidelines, which do not allow "the promotion of hatred toward groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity."

While Apple has pulled the app, Android users still have the ability to download the app from the Google store.

Many of those commenting on the app on Google Play have chosen to focus on the ministry's single sexual impurity course. But the app, as detailed in its product description, focuses equally on other "habitual sins," not just homosexuality.

"Every day we help people just like you find freedom from habitual sins and learn to grow in grace," the description reads.

The ministry was founded by evangelical Mike Cleveland and claims that over 500,000 people have benefited from the courses.

This isn't the first time Apple has removed an app in response to protest from gay rights activists. In 2010, the Manhattan Declaration app was pulled from the App Store after some denounced it as anti-gay. Those behind the Manhattan Declaration – drafted by such conservatives as the late evangelical leader Chuck Colson and Dr. Robert George of Princeton University – said it simply outlines principles that uphold the sanctity of life, the historic understanding of marriage, and religious liberty, and contains no "inflammatory" language.

"We emphasize with great sincerity that 'disagreement' is not 'gay-bashing.' Anyone who takes the time to read the Manhattan Declaration can see that the language used to defend traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious liberty is civil, non-inflammatory, and respectful," they said, as previously reported by The Christian Post.

"The Manhattan Declaration clearly calls its signers to reject 'disdainful condemnation' of those who disagree and declares that all people are worthy of respect, because all are loved by God."

The following year, Apple also pulled an app by Exodus International, a Christian ministry that helps people with unwanted same-sex attraction, when gay rights activists protested.

When Apple released its iPhone 5 in September 2012, the National Religious Broadcasters association introduced an Internet free speech charter encouraging Apple, as well as Facebook, Google, and Comcast, to respect First Amendment rights when accepting and rejecting apps.

The charter argued that these prominent tech companies are selective and anemic with their First Amendment rights in that they often reject apps relating to the biblical principles of life sanctity and traditional marriage.

"Why should these same companies, then, execute on their platforms a free speech standard that is substantially lower and is much more anemic than the First Amendment?" the charter challenged.

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