Apple has banned a controversial iPhone app aimed at Christians struggling with homosexual feelings. Is it a victory against hate, or a blow to free speech?
The app, from Christian 'ex-gay' group Exodus International, was meant to "provide the information and education for people who are looking for an alternative to unwanted same sex attractions,"according to Exodus' Jeff Buchanan. Soon after its February debut, the app came under fire from critics who urged the notoriously stringent Apple to remove it from the company's App Store.
An online petition hosted by gay-rights group Change.org outlined the objections:
Apple's app guidelines, released last September, detailed rules on how the company decides what can and cannot be sold through its store: "Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected," the company states.
Apple doesn't allow racist or anti-Semitic apps in its app store, yet it is giving 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." This is a double standard that has the potential for devastating consequences.
By Tuesday night, the petition had received more than 140,000 signatures. Apple quietly bowed to pressure, removing the app without a statement.
Exodus, meanwhile, has fought back against the perception that the app was aimed at 'curing' homosexuality. "In no way shape or form is our message about trying to cure or do we try to promote that type of methodology or message," Buchanan told the Christian Post, though his message was muddled somewhat by his subsequent statements: "Exodus believes the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. It is holiness. We promote the belief that one can live a life that is congruent with their faith. That is our mission – period. "
So, was the Exodus app hate speech, or merely religious speech that many people disagree with? (There is a difference, right?) We're not confident enough to answer for sure, but we will point readers to a wonderful Forbes essay, by Victoria Pynchon:
The furor over the Exodus App suggests that the iPad, by virtue of its shape and function, is assumed to be carrying our national “super story” – the tale a community tells about itself to establish a shared identity. As scholars explain, these national narratives hold us together and keep us apart. They help us make sense of our experience as we flip through the various idealized images the culture suggests we adopt as our own. When we fail to find our own story within the larger narrative — or find ourselves demonized by it — we lose confidence, hope and coherence. We want to be celebrated, or at least included, in the tales told around the community camp fire every evening.
Do you agree?