iWars Continue with Exodus ’Ex Gay’ App
A spokesperson for an international "ex-gay" group says that the organization’s iPhone application contributes to "true diversity," and argues that the app should not suffer the same fate as the controversial "Manhattan Declaration," which was scrapped by Apple.
Jeff Buchanan of Exodus International told religious broadcaster CBN News that his organization "love[s] those that struggle with same-sex attractions or are gay, and we just want to communicate the message of Jesus, and the message of Christ to them," reported GLBT news site Queerty on March 15.
The CBN report can be viewed at the religious broadcaster’s website. In the video, a reporter refers to the earlier iPhone app flap involving the Manhattan Declaration, saying, "Critics had called the application anti-gay because it defends traditional marriage."
Protests against the Manhattan Declaration app were launched at Change.org by that website in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
The Manhattan Declaration runs to 4,700 words, and was presented at a media conference on Nov. 20, 2009. The document purports to trace a Christian tradition of defending "the sanctity of life" and "traditional marriage" through the ages, and makes the claim that Christianity laid the groundwork for democracy and equality for all before the law. Anti-gay groups such as Focus on the Family embraced the manifesto and encouraged their adherents to put their names to it.
But the declaration also raised hackles. The text claims that the push for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian families is nothing more than an attempt to "redefine" marriage to suit "fashionable ideologies," and says that the Declaration "affirm[s]... marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society." That text and a quiz regarding moral issues around marriage were included in the app, which was initially cleared and made available by Apple.
The online petition organized by Change.org in opposition to the Manhattan Declaration app gathered thousands of signatures within a week. Apple responded by reviewing the app, and then removing it.
GLAAD noted that the Manhattan Declaration app went beyond an implicit assumption that same-sex families were somehow undeserving of the "dignity" that the document claimed should be reserved solely for mixed-gender couples.
"The app features an electronic version of a declaration, through which users can pledge to make ’whatever sacrifices are required’ to oppose marriage equality, even, presumably, if that means breaking the law" in asking users not to "bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth," a Dec. 15, 2010, GLAAD release said.
"The ’Manhattan Declaration’ calls gay and lesbian couples ’immoral,’ it calls the recognition of their relationships ’false and destructive,’ and claims that allowing them to be married will lead to ’genuine social harms,’ " the GLAAD release noted. "The original application also contained a quiz in which the ’right’ answers were those that oppose equality for gay and lesbian people.
"This application fuels a climate in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are put in harm’s way," the GLAAD release went on. "Apple did the right thing in recognizing that this application violates the company’s guidelines."
Noting that the quiz had been stripped out of the revised app that was re-submitted to Apple for approval, GLAAD went on to say that, "simply removing the quiz does nothing to address the underlying problem, which is that this application tells people to pledge to oppose equality for gay and lesbian couples."
The Mormon Church-affiliated anti-gay organization the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has spent massive amounts of money across the nation to oppose marriage parity for gay and lesbian families, lent its support to the app. The group produced an ad that accused Apple founder Steve Jobs of anti-Christian censorship.
CBN reported that Change.org had turned its attention to the Exodus app. "Exodus is a Christian ministry that helps Christians struggling with homosexuality," the CBN broadcast said. "Change.org says that Exodus’ message is bigoted and hateful."
Change.org is an online petitions site dedicated to social progress. A posting at the site regarding the Exodus app noted that the "ex-gay" group claimed that its app had received Apple’s 4+ rating, "meaning that it contains ’no objectionable content.’
"No objectionable content?" the Change.org posting read. "We beg to differ. Exodus’ message is hateful and bigoted. 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. But reparative therapy isn’t just bad medicine--it’s also very damaging to the self-esteem and mental health of its victims."
The Exodus application does not ask the user to verify that he or she is legally an adult. Change.org indicated that this made the app dangerously available to minors already under stress regarding their sexuality.
"This new iPhone app is the latest move in Exodus’ dangerous new strategy of targeting youth," the posting read. "In light of the recent wave of LGBT youth suicides, this tactic is particularly galling as it creates, legitimizes, and fuels the ostracism of LGBT youth by their families.
"According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs (Caitlin Ryan, San Francisco State University, June 2009)."
Change.org framed the issue as one of civil rights and the need for minorities not to be subjected to abusive treatment.
"Apple doesn’t allow racist or anti-Semitic apps in its app store, yet it gives the green light to an app targeting vulnerable LGBT youth with the message that their sexual orientation is a ’sin that will make your heart sick’ and a ’counterfeit,’ " the posting continued. "This is a double standard that has the potential for devastating consequences."
Asked by CBN about the allegations made by Change.org, Buchanan said that his organization has widely been misunderstood and misrepresented.
"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’re simply wanting 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."
Asked how Exodus International intended to respond to demands that Apple remove its application, Buchanan stressed a need for "respectful" expressions of support for Exodus and its mission.
"What our strategy is, is just simply to asking those that support our point of view to be vocal and loving in a redemptive way to Apple--let them know that you care, and you’re concerned about the message of Exodus, and that you want that fairly represented in the iTunes platform.
"That’s really what we’re wanting, is just simply to have people respectfully voice their support of this application and of Exodus International to the proper people at Apple," Buchanan said.
The CBN News page that includes the religious broadcaster’s video report on the app encourages viewers to send notes of support to Apple and the give the app "a high rating on the iTunes site," where it can be downloaded.
Following the Manhattan Declaration imbroglio, an application aimed at Roman Catholics came in for similar criticism. The application, called Confession: A Roman Catholic App, set off GLBT advocates, who said that it was "promoting anti-gay spiritual abuse" by directing users to ask themselves, "Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?"
LGBTQ Nation 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.
The notion of "guilt" and "sin" in connection with same-sex intimacy prompted Wayne Besen, head of the American anti-"ex-gay" group Truth Wins Out, to say 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."
British newspaper The Guardian noted that the app is sold through iTunes, and reported that it was a strong seller, ranking at #26 on the apps chart.