iPhone2 211x3001 Exodus, Apple And The Free Speech Canard(Weekly Column)

What is Apple up to? The company has remained bizarrely silent in failing to address the exploding controversy over Exodus International’s new “ex-gay” iPhone app.

My organization, Truth Wins Out, launched a Change.org petition that has gathered 145,000 signatures asking Apple to dump the “pray away the gay” technology. Yet, the company persists in burying its head in the sand. The LGBT community and progressives are signing in droves because they feel betrayed by a beloved brand. Indeed, those behind this campaign are working off of Apple computers, iPhones, and iPads.

We hope that Apple wakes up and abandons its ‘bury-head-in-sand’ approach. The company needs to understand that disenchantment and protests are going to escalate if the app is not removed. It is bewildering that Apple would risk tarnishing its image and alienating its most faithful customers.

Those in favor of the app argue that Exodus has a right to free speech. However, Apple is a private company and not a government, meaning that they are free to serve as the gatekeeper, deciding who gets to use their technology to disseminate messages. Saying that nixing Exodus’ app is a violation of free speech is as absurd as saying that crooners booted off American Idol are having their free speech rights violated.

In fact, each day, Apple “auditions” new apps and many are rejected based on the company’s guidelines. There are even websites for software developers to complain about their proposed app getting the shaft. Given this reality, what basis does Exodus have to claim that they deserve an app? It certainly isn’t Apple’s own policies.

Apple’s guidelines for developers state “applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind [...] or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod Touch users…Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm’s way will be rejected.”

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 what about Chambers’ bashing of gay Christians when he falsely spews, “In my opinion the problem with being a gay Christian is that gay comes first and takes center stage.  God won’t share His throne with anyone or anything.”

Exodus also fails to meet Apple’s standards because the organization is quite explicit when it comes to sex. On the Exodus Students blog it asks middle school students, “So how could one be able to masturbate without bringing a relational dynamic into it – most often in the form of fantasy or pornography?” Didn’t Jocelyn Elders get fired as United States Surgeon General for saying something much milder about this topic?

Additionally, Exodus does not meet Apple’s standards when it comes to banning apps that “contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations.” Earlier this week, for example, University of Minnesota Researcher Dr. Gary Remafedi asked Apple to remove Exodus’ app because the group distorted his work in an effort to smear LGBT people.

This transgression alone should have been enough for Apple to put the kibosh on Exodus’ misleading product. Yet, the company is, for some reason, giving a pass to a virulently anti-gay organization that is glaringly and flagrantly violating its own policies.

Apple has a responsibility to explain what the heck is going on. Why is this hate group receiving preferential treatment, when countless other apps that were infinitely less offensive did not pass muster?

BillboardChristine Exodus, Apple And The Free Speech CanardFinally, the most astounding part of this entire fight is Exodus International’s remarkably dishonest defense. The group is disingenuously claiming that opponents are distorting their position.

“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,” Jeff Buchanan, Exodus International’s Senior Director of Church Equipping & Student Ministries, told The Christian Post.

Has Buchanan not seen his own group’s billboards that claim, “Change is Possible” or “The Truth Brought Freedom?” Is he so clueless as to be unaware of Exodus’ motto, “Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ?”

Apple needs to get its act together and answer some very tough questions. The company’s enforcement of its app standards is simply inconsistent and needs to be clarified. But no matter how one reads the current policy, Exodus fails to make the cut.

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