Wednesday, June 5, 2013
An app that promised users "freedom from homosexuality" has been removed from the Apple App Store, but still remains in Google's Play Store for Android phones and tablets, despite requests to have it removed.
Setting Captives Free, a nondenominational ministry led by Mike Cleveland from Medina, Ohio, says it is committed to ridding people of sin through the teachings of Jesus Christ. In its mobile phone apps and on its website, the organization offers a series of interactive courses and informational materials on fighting temptation and living a sin-free life.
But one course in particular, titled "Door of Hope: Freedom from the Bondage of Homosexuality," last week caught the attention of gay rights and equality group All Out. The 60-day interactive course, which was then available through both the iPhone and Android apps, promises to "teach you to enjoy a newfound relationship with the Lord and how to find freedom from homosexuality."
"Friend, before we discover God's method of freeing us from homosexuality, we must first agree with God on the issue of homosexuality," a passage from the second section of the course reads.
All Out launched a petition May 29 that demanded Apple and Google remove the app from their respective stores. "Gay 'cures'? There shouldn't be an app for that," All Out posted on its site. "Apple and Google have policies against these kinds of apps but so far this one has escaped their notice. Sign now to tell them to drop this and all other gay 'cure' apps!"
More than 94,000 people have signed the petition so far.
Apple removed the app last week, citing clause 16.1 in its App Store Guidelines, according to a Setting Captives Free representative. "Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected," 16.1 reads.
"Apps that are primarily designed to upset or disgust users will be rejected."
Apple wouldn't comment on the removal process or reasoning when reached by ABC News.
This isn't the first time Apple has banned an anti-gay app. It pulled an app March 2011 called Exodus, which provided similar content for helping people "in their journey out of homosexuality."
Google, on the other hand, has not removed the app. It still appears in the Google Play Store, although only parts of the course are accessible. Google declined to comment on the app when reached by ABC News.
"All Out would like to engage in a conversation with Google about why the so-called 'Gay Cures' app is so dangerous, especially to young people," Joe Mirabella, All Out's director of community Campaigns, told ABC News. "All Out would like Google to remove the app from their stores before anyone is harmed by it."
Meanwhile, critics have left comments for Google on the app review page. "Remove this app from Google market, Apple has already removed it from theirs. Pray away the gay is such a load of hogwash, and very offensive!" one user wrote.
Google has always maintained a more open approach to its app store. Its App Developer Guidelines don't mention "objectionable content" as Apple's does.
Google does have a strict ban, though, on sexually explicit material, bullying and hate speech.
Earlier this week, Google banned a pornography app for Google Glass.
Setting Captives Free says it has attempted to reach Apple to get clarification on the ban and whether future versions of its app will be approved for the store. In hopes of keeping its app in both of the popular mobile stores, the ministry also clarified that it does not think it can cure homosexuality as if it is a disease.
"We do not offer a cure as if homosexuality was a disease nor do we claim to be able to change anyone," the organization said. "We present a Way of Life -- His name is Jesus. If homosexuals are unhappy with their current way of life, they have the right to pursue happiness and change if they wish.
"Those who oppose us cannot understand because they have not experienced the transforming power of the gospel."