Apple is facing criticism from a gay rights group after the company approved an iPhone app from a religious ministry that encourages people to "cure" themselves of homosexuality.
Advocating "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus," Exodus International launched its app last month to spread the word about its cause. The app connects users to the ministry's Web site and offers links to its latest news and blog posts.
But Exodus' message and its app have triggered complaints from Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit group whose stated goal is to fight anti-gay religious extremism. Launching a petition on Change.org to persuade Apple to remove the app, TWO says this type of so-called "reparative therapy" to change one's sexual orientation has been rejected by all the major medical associations.
Calling Exodus' message "hateful and bigoted," TWO claims the ministry uses scare tactics and misinformation to recruit people. Of particular concern, says TWO, is the way Exodus has been targeting young people in the wake of several recent suicides by LGBT teenagers.
In its petition, which as of now has already received more than 99,000 signatures, TWO is calling on Apple CEO Steve Jobs and other key executives to remove the app based on the company's own guidelines, which say that "any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected."
Apple has not responded to a request for comment.
The app itself has received more than 600 one-star reviews in the App Store, with a large number of people condemning its message.
"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,'" said TWO in its petition. "This is a double standard that has the potential for devastating consequences."
Apple faced a similar conflict late last year over an app from the Manhattan Declaration, a group whose members speak out against such issues as gay marriage. Following a petition against this app on Change.org, Apple eventually removed it from the App Store explaining that it "violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."