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Anti-"Ex-Gay" iPhone app petition hits 135,000 signatures

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A religious non-profit group, Exodus International, is drawing criticism for its official iPhone app. The group finds its roots in the "Ex-gay" crowd -- those of us in the reality-based community may know it by its less popular term, "still gay," or at best, bisexual -- comprised of those who believe that homosexuality is a "curable" condition. The message of Exodus International is all the more odious because of its target audience: confused, self-loathing gays and lesbians. Rather than spreading a message of genuine hope, best illustrated by the "It Gets Better" campaign, Exodus preaches that homosexuality is an obstacle to be overcome -- that deliverance from your burden lies not in coming to terms with and accepting who you are, but performing the psycho-spiritual gymnastics necessary to achieve a "conversion" to straight, "normal" way of life. The existence of this app may be detestable to those in the gay (or simply gay-friendly) community, but Matthew Zuras, writing for swtiched.com, offers a different point of view. He says:

I say, let them have their iPhone app. (We have more than enough of our own.) Denying Exodus an app on the App Store denies them a voice. While it may not be a natural right that all views should be legitimized by Apple, the fact is that, even if I and other members of the LGBT community don't agree with Exodus, the organization should be given the opportunity to civilly exercise its rights. Even if the organization's tactics are controversial, the contents of its app are not aggressive and do not encourage violence.

Hit the jump to read more!


His article is very well written (be sure to check it out for the full context), but I couldn't disagree more. We have an obnoxious tendency, particularly in America, to think in absolutes: The logic goes that denying freedom of speech to one group puts that of all other groups in jeopardy; it could, by the same heavy-handed approach, be turned back on you. There are a couple of problems with this. For one, it's an affront to our collective intelligence. It assumes that we are such childlike simpletons that nuance is simply beyond us. Left without the guiding light of absolutism, censorship would have a safe haven in the whims of popular opinion. Secondly, in this instance, the right to "free speech" is delegated to Apple. The First Amendment still stands; Exodus International can go out on their proverbial street corner and wax poetic about the evils of homosexuality until they are breathless and blue in the face, but freedom of speech does not grant one freedom to a platform. Yes, Exodus may find itself "under attack" by gay rights organizations, just as racist organizations find themselves under attack from anti-racist groups. The difference between the two is that racism is officially abhorrent -- after waking from our collective hate-induced coma, we put laws on the books to defend racial minorities -- while the morality of homophobia is, while steadily fading, still technically debatable. It still has the support of large chunks of the public, a political party, and at least one news network. It also, rather annoyingly, hides behind the apron of religion whenever one dares utter an unkind word against it. Leviticus is inevitably cited which, in fairness, does condemn homosexuality; it also condemns shellfish (bye bye Red Lobster), clothing made from two types of cloth (so long, wardrobe), and orders the execution of adulterers, blasphemers, and mouthy teenagers. As you've probably noticed, these policies find themselves no longer in effect -- we in the civilized world seem to take against executions (and there would be scores of them) for all but the most heinous of crimes -- yet homophobia finds itself riding through the ages on the coattails of ill-education, "traditional values," and undue respect on the grounds that, were it the target in their cross-hairs, would be described as moral relativism.

I certainly don't mean to sound as though I'm accusing Apple of being homophobic; as Matthew Zuras writes, "It has caved before to gay rights advocates, pulling the 'Manhattan Declaration' app (which opposed LGBT rights and gay marriage) from the App Store last year. As PC World notes, Apple also donated $100,000 to defeat Proposition 8 in California. It's hardly an enemy of the gay community." Still, anyone with the sense God gave a bag of oranges can tell that the app promotes homophobia -- reading between the lines takes a mere iota of effort. I strongly urge you to sign the petition; it takes but a passing moment of your time, and every little bit helps. While struggles for equality are always framed by their more dramatic moments, it's worth remembering that they found their origins in the smaller, almost dull skirmishes. This truth compels those of us in the inter-denominational (along with us atheists and agnostics) Church of Sanity to beat at the ramparts of hate and intolerance, however subtle its guise. Freedom of speech may give them the right to yell their homophobic messages, but it gives us the freedom to yell back.

Link to the petition

(via Truth Wins Out, prnewswire)

Update: The app has been removed, as of today.

18 Comments

SecretMoblin said:

With sincere respect to you, I think Zuras makes the more compelling argument, despite the overused red herring of the term "free speech". You're correct in dismissing the idea that this has anything to do with "free speech" in a legal sense, but this is about corporate censorship and its ramifications.

While the app does promote and appeal to long-held (and wrong) views about homosexuality, it does so without an appeal - explicit or implicit - to carry out illegal activities. It simply echoes the disgusting rhetoric that already permeates the broader culture. The folks behind Exodus are perfectly aware of the controversy this App would bring; and to illustrate Zuras' argument about the 'gay agenda', Exodus wants pressure from gay and lesbian organizations to pull the app so it can prove its point about those mean intolerant gays shutting down anybody who gets in their way.

The idea of a scary gay mafia may sound crazy, but it's what a huge number of people believe. It's why there is such a strong reaction to judges, rather than voters or representatives, deciding the issue of marriage. Look at what happened to the judges in Iowa last November! Americans who are skeptical of the gay rights movement need to feel that their voices are being heard, even if it means having to tolerate some vicious, anti-gay crap.

I know there is not a lot of agreement in the gay community about what ultimately should be done about these groups, but I'm firmly on the side of letting them speak rather than using every avenue available to silence them. We have the better argument, but we can't win the debate if we refuse to engage in the first place.

Splash Chick said:

Sure it can stay, as long as I can make an app educating people on how terrible and inferior blacks and latinos are without getting it pulled.

Say what you want about free speech, but it's as simple as that.

Jim said:

Exodus are a truly horrific organisation that destroy the lives of many LGBT people, their families and partners.

Apple are extremely fickle about what they will and won't allow on their appstore.

I was going to say that I thought an important point was that you can't change your skin colour, but of course you can. Michael Jackson seemed to want to try. People need positive support, and not to be told that they are evil.

People are entitled to their opinions, even distasteful ones. An important question, though, is at what point do you draw the line? Neo-Nazi apps certainly wouldn't be allowed. Why should incitement to hatred, on reasonable grounds, ever be allowed a voice? Or certainly a voice that remains unchallenged?

By reasonable I mean the principles of equality and the right not to be oppressed. There is a large portion of society that are ignorant and people cling to horrible beliefs that they force onto other people. Whilst I don't think anyone has the right to force their beliefs on another, where people are being harmed and hate is allowed to fester I think there is an over-riding principle.

Education, and not just about sexuality, but in its wider sense too. It seems that in some US States things are taking a backward slide. This always happens in a recession, but in places like Iowa I think there is a more serious problem.

I don't mean to sound trite. No where is perfect. I hope you manage to sort things out.

Wolf said:

I think it comes down to idealism. For me, freedom of expression is the most important virtue any society can have. It's not just a right; it's a responcibility. The price for true freedom is to compromise yourself and even the very system on which that freedom is built. You have to hold your ideals till they hurt for true ideal-ism.

But, that's idealism and not reality. The ideal way forward would be to have apps that touch on gay matterial pushed forward, rather than hold this one back. If the system doesnt work, it's the fault of Apple or (in the bigger picture) society.
Realistically, yes, the only way to petition justice is to set an example that homophobia and exploitation are unacceptable. I'm an idealist, and I would be saddened if this was the way it had to be. In the long run, it makes the fundies feel persecuted and undermined and, at worst, they could turn into victimisation against "the gay agenda".

Good article, btw.

Brandon said:

Being straight, I am deeply disgusted by these people. It makes me feel like I am doing something wrong. My wife and I are strongly pro-gay marriage/parents/rights and are deeply saddened by these people. Not to bring religion into this, but I hate it. It is used to stand as a body guard for these ignorant people. YUCK.

Mittens said:

I think Apple would be wise to stay out of the politics unless they see a genuine marketing advantage--so in that case, I would allow the app and ignore any backwash about it unless Apple is ready to admit to some degree of social righteousness and agenda (which could be good and bad for them on many levels). The Apple store is a huge media/tools market, and it would seem unfair to hold them to a different standard than Amazon who sells MANY "offensive" titles.

I abhor censorship in all forms. Acknowledging evil/stupidity is my preferred form of social growth.

mittens said:

Just another note now that I've reviewed Exodus' site a bit. I'm finding a lot of very compassionate writing here--especially in response to bullying and suicides. No blaming, no arguments for changing the victim--and even lists of support LGBTQ groups that are not related to faith or change ministries. There may be plenty of examples of wrongdoing on Exodus' part that I'm not finding, but this is not the prime example of a toxic application of biblical interpretation.

One of their bloggers encourages participation in the Trans Day of Remembrance because she recounts having no visible or actual support of any kind when being bullied for being gay in school. I also see condemnation of negative treatment of homosexuals--they are calling it a cardinal sin to pass/exact judgment and demand support in all cases. In short, not the ammonia-lima-beans, brimstone, basement torture, and self-denial synonymous with the category.

Some of our comments here (while laudable in their purpose) do not seem to be relevant to this particular scenario.

Jim said:

@ Mittens,

There's actually quite a bit if you scout around through Google, though the first link I came across was from George Takei indicating that the app had actually been pulled from the appstore. It seems several hundred thousand people had signed a petition, though I don't know whether Exodus withdrew the app, or whether Apple did.

And, actually, I do think the comments are relevant. Exodus has a history of "straightening people out", where they go onto to live in celibate, loveless marriages, some of which are destroyed because no one's really changed, and both partners are deeply hurt.

Exodus are anti-gay. They might not be as vocally full of hate as some groups, but their very nature is, in itself, an anti-gay position.

Surprisingly, Jesus and God can't cure or solve squat, not even for their believers. Being LGBT isn't something to be cured and Exodus, in saying that is something that can and should be cured, is downright incitement to hatred.

Jim said:

Here's an interesting link regarding Exodus:

http://www.skeptictank.org/hs/exodus.htm

Mittens said:

It's possible that skeptictank's article was/is true, but it looks quite outdated from its citations (most citations are in 1996), and its largely anecdotal and disconnected to what I see on Exodus' site. Perhaps it's a veil of positive and supportive intentions designed to prevent me from seeing the awful truth, but I doubt it. And I do see a clearly stated intent to avoid the hatred you describe.

Stamping out our options (even the bad ones) is not especially different from not having the right to exercise them in the first place. This group appears to preach a very graceful and tempered approach--and state pretty clearly that hatred toward homosexuals is wrong and misses the point. So...do you hate them because you disagree? Either way, this group advocates a peaceful resolution and opposes non-peaceful attempts. Were we so lucky with all religious efforts, we'd be in a better place.

Also, I didn't mean to imply all of the comments are off-base. I said "some" because some of the comments apply to the category--and I think there is evidence here that we aren't dealing with that stereotype.

Greg said:

More opinions.

http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressreleases/2011/03/15472/

"By every objective measure Exodus fails to meet these standards. Is it not “objectionable” when the group hosts a television show that repeatedly calls LGBT people “sexually broken” and “perverse”? Is it not defamatory when Exodus says, “homosexuality will make your heart sick?”

And how do Apple executives rationalize this statement from Exodus president Alan Chambers: “One of the many evils this world has to offer is the sin of homosexuality. Satan, the enemy, is using people to further his agenda to destroy the Kingdom of God and as many souls as he can.”"

And more on Exodus:

http://www.advocate.com/Society/Media/Lisa_Lings_Exgay_Puff_Piece/

"For example, Ling allowed Chambers to appear tolerant and suggest that openly LGBT people might possibly get into heaven. But this was Alan Chambers at his best, ­ charming gullible reporters in the mainstream media who don't research how his organization speaks to Christian audiences. For instance, in the very e-mail where Chambers praises Ling, he also writes, "Remember, the opposite of homosexuality, or whatever sin struggle one brings to the foot of the cross, is holiness."

In 2007 at the Family Impact Summit, Chambers told a crowd of social conservatives, "We have to stand up against an evil agenda. It is an evil agenda and it will take anyone captive that is willing, or that is standing idly by.""

Jim said:

Hey Mittens,

I don't like them because they teach that being an LGBT person is wrong and, as I said in my last post, I acknowledge that they are not as full on in the hate as some groups, but my point is that trying to convert people from being LGBT is in itself hateful.

Their approach is definately better than the 'go straight to hell' and outright persecution crowd, and I know that they publicly spoke against the increasing penalty for being LGBT in Uganda (and it's great that they did, because they also spoke at a conference to help decide the matter, which was ultimately passed despite everyone's efforts, including those of Exodus).

I'm entitled to my opinion, as are they, but then I don't spread hate and I try to treat people equally no matter who they are. They are entitled to voice their opinions and I dislike their opinions and hate-related practices intensely, I admit it freely.

But, as I said, even though they state hatred against LGBT people is wrong, they try to convert people, which is in itself an act of hate. No one should be converted to anything they are not, and those that seek that kind of 'therapy' (which evidence strongly suggests does not in fact really work) then they deserve counslling, support and positive reinforcement, not to be guided down a path that pushes their psyche against itself under the terribly misused guise of religion and/or beliefs that they turn to when they are especially vulnerable.

Since you responded with a question, my earlier question was where to you draw the line?

There is a fine line between comedy and offence, and in the UK we have an (annoying) law that prevents comics from telling jokes. That I disagree with and that's one of the areas where I would draw the line. If it's more funny than offensive, then it's comedy. If it's more offensive than funny, then a comedian/comedienne wouldn't get very far. Their choice, not the state's.

In Europe, far right-wing/neo-nazi groups aren't allowed freedom of speech at anywhere near the same level as other groups, and in several countries their groups are banned altogether. The Nazi's killed millions of people. Would you allow them to spread that hatred now? How is it different to a group that preaches that we're not good enough and should be converted, or a ruins lives with empty marriages, or tells gay teens to 'straighten up'?

No one's being killed by them, sure, but saying that we're worth less than them, to be less than what they regard as truly human, surely puts them in the same ball park?

12thGay said:

@Brandon

I think I am in love with you.

Azuremage said:

It was posted on gaydaytime.org that Exodus has been officially removed from the U.S. and Irish Apple app stores.

And that app is history!

Super Swede said:


Sorry i can't respond to all of you, but it's nearing my grandpa-like bedtime (i work at insane o'clock in the morning).

Regarding the fear of feeding into their argument about "the gay agenda," and the issue of freedom of expression:

I respect the points that have been made, but I still support the course of action that was taken. We already have de facto corporate censorship with regard to racism, and i'd love for homophobic content to be given the same treatment. I've never quite taken to the idea of avoiding tactics that arguably fuel the notion of "the gay agenda;" as far as i'm concerned, these nutjob are so far gone that I've given up hope for them -- the moderates are a different story, and in my opinion should be the focus of pro-equality efforts -- but that just one person's point of view.

As for religion:

I'm an atheist, but like it or not, we do live in a majority-Christian nation. Despite my views on much of religion which, while having cooled over the years, aren't always terribly popular, i'm just thankful to see progressive Christians joining the struggle for gay rights. Part of what fuels animosity is the alienation from the target of one's prejudice; it's not "the other" so much as as one's conception thereof, which lends itself to an ignorant, monolithic viewpoint. This certainly isn't the case for everyone -- there are very valid criticisms to be leveled at elements of wingnut Christian theology -- but my mistake was always letting that anger get the better of me. This is why I'm always thankful to have Christian friends to keep me in check, and to remind me that religious people can, in spite of the nastier aspects of theology (much of which is no longer followed), join in the cause for equality. My experience may not be relevant to your scenario, but i feel it's worth sharing.
That being said, I can't bring myself to utter a kind word about Exodus International. I did read the article about bullying; it was a very sad and very real story -- though the majority of their articles made me roll my eyes so far into the back of my head that i could see the workings of my subconscious -- but i find whatever sympathy they profess for gays and lesbians overridden by the core argument, be it implicit or explicit: That homosexuality needs to be changed, or at the very least, that "conversion" to heterosexuality will lead to a better life. The idea that you can change yourself, presumably because homosexuality goes against the will of God, is stooped in deceit. It is senseless, unscientific, and in my opinion can only, at best, lead to constant repression of one's innate urges -- and that's never a good thing. What grinds on my nerves more than anything is that Exodus's approach (judging by the content of their website) preys on gay Christians, swooping in like some saving angel of grace with a heart full of love to spread not the message that you don't have to be hated, but that you don't have to be gay. We need to combat homophobia, not homosexuality. Until Exodus adopts this view, I can't bring myself to utter a kind word about them.

I'm proud that the racist idiots at Stormfront are able to host their servers of inane dribble in the United States of America. Freedom of comfortable speech is useless.

To see why freedom of speech is important, compare Europe's useless freedom of speech to American freedom of speech. I have an Italian friend who explained the case of John Galliano to me. I can stand by Dior's decision to fire him. I can agree that he showed his lack of intelligence by his comments. But, it's insanity that the French authorities are considering filing criminal charges against him for expressing anti-Semitic views.

I know that Apple's a private company, and they can do whatever they choose, but I think Zuras hits it on the head. Was getting this application removed from the app store sufficiently important that it balances those homophobes which see one more example of the 'gay agenda' and will now vote for homophobic and discriminatory laws?

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