Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I'm Signing's Petition to iPhone

Recently, Exodus International has released an iPhone app which makes it easier for people to send "help" to young folks questioning their sexuality. Translation: If you want to scare and shame a teenager you know into a so-called ex-gay ministry, there's an app for that.

Now if any group wants to offer an app, that's their right. But for Apple to rate such a feature as having "no objectionable content"? I beg to differ.

At best, the claims of these groups to "cure" homosexuality through prayer and/or "reparative therapy" is incredibly dubious. Many of these ministries don't even do long-term follow-up studies on the effectiveness of their programs.

And that's the best you can say about them. From what many men and women who have endured those programs have reported, the potential for psychological harm is very high and very real.

From a spiritual perspective, it seems to me that the whole basis of ex-gay ministries is a legalistic dogma -- that being gay and being "right with God" are mutually exclusive, based on a biased reading of six Bible passages. Now we can debate the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek, and the context of those passages, but instead I'll just pose one simple question:

If you believe that all things are possible with God, then why not the possibility that there's nothing inherently wrong with same-gender love?

The Exodus app is at the very least false advertising, and at worst it is selling poison as medicine. Please join me in signing's petition, and demand that Apple stop supporting the Exodus app.


  1. I have absolutely no sympathy for Exodus, and I agree that Apple has no basis for saying their app has "no objectionable content."

    But I take a different position: I want Apple to stop passing judgment on the content of third party apps using their hardware. Period. In fact, that's the big reason I don't plan to buy an iPad for e-reader use, as inviting as it might be...

  2. Apple could take one of three approaches to third-party apps:

    1) Include none in their catalog, and let the app creators market them themselves.

    2) Do not include apps which involve advocacy of any political or religious position.

    3) Attach a disclaimer to any third-party app included in their catalog.

  3. My preference would be 1) (essentially a variation on open-sourcing), or 3). Strictly speaking, 2), if consistently enforced would mean barring the New York Times or Fox News. Or the UU World, for that matter... Would it not?

  4. Strictly speaking, #2 would mean that all sorts of people would complain to Apple about all sorts of apps. And if a newspaper gets complaints from the Right and the Left, what then?

    Apple can simply say: "We don't endorse candidates or parties, and we're not going to endorse apps which do so." Now that can mean no third-party apps, or putting disclaimers on third-party apps, or a completely different rating system.

    But, back to the Exodus app ... I find it objectionable because I find fraud objectionable, and especially when efforts are made to sell that fraud to impressionable -- and vulnerable -- young people.

    Set aside politics and religion for a moment. There are serious questions about whether the "therapies" these ministries advocate and use actually work. Does Apple really want to share in the responsibility of pushing them on teens?

  5. Re: Apple's restrictions.

    They're attempting to thread the needle on ensuring that the platform is reasonably safe. It makes sense from a virus and ensuring that the application does what it says it should standard.

    It gets much foggier when you get to making decisions on societal issues such as this. From a free speech perspective I'm a bit miffed that the app got pulled. I managed to download it before it got canceled, and honestly its nothing that they can't do on a website, which can get its own icon, and even store its own content on your iOS device..

    I find Exodus to be objectionable, but I'm willing to defend their free speech rights from the government, although free speech rights don't apply to what Apple decides to approve for the app store.

  6. @Nicholas: Free speech not only means the right of a group to express themselves, but the right of any group to not be compelled to do so.

    IMHO the question of Apple endorsing an app like this is one of corporate responsibility. Some years ago, there was a "dieter's tea" with serious -- sometimes fatal -- side effects. If Apple endorsed an app which made it easier to buy the tea and have it shipped to your door, or someone else's, that raises the question of Apple's liability if and when someone gets seriously ill from drinking it.

    That in turn raises the question: Just how much vetting should a company like Apple do? True, they can't know everything, but there's also the option of having a disclaimer or warning notice. Those of us who do education in the BDSM community have such notices printed on books, articles and workshop handouts all the time. Now if a bunch of kinky sex educators can do it, why not a big corporation like Apple?