Apple's removal of Christian app draws ire

SEATTLE (BP)--Conservatives are expressing shock and frustration after Apple pulled an iPhone/iPad "app" from its online store that contained basic Christian beliefs on homosexuality and abortion.

Although the move impacts only owners of iPhones and iPads, conservatives fear it is another indicator of where society is headed when it comes to critiquing core Christian values.

The app -- one of more than 200,000 applications, or software programs, in the app store -- included the complete text of the Manhattan Declaration, a 4,700-word statement on the culture that about 150 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders signed last year and that more than 475,000 other people have since signed.

At the time, the declaration received wide mainstream press coverage, partially because leaders such as James Dobson, Richard Land, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Charles Colson and Timothy Dolan -- the new head of the U.S. Council on Catholic Bishops -- all were on board. A large number of Southern Baptists signed it.

By downloading the free app, a person could easily read and sign the declaration. More than 35,000 people have signed a petition at ManhattanDeclaration.org asking Apple to reinstate the app.

The application was pulled after 7,700 members of the liberal website Change.org e-mailed Apple and asked the company to remove it, which Apple did in late November. Apple has since told ABC News, "We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people." The Change.org webpage had argued that "supporters of equal rights and the right of women to control their own bodies" must stand together.

The Manhattan Declaration, though, contains beliefs conservatives say can be heard in numerous evangelical pulpits -- and even on the floors of some legislatures -- throughout the year. It cites Scripture and spotlights the issues of life, marriage and religious liberty. In a summary paragraph, the Manhattan Declaration says:

"[W]e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act, nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."

Conservatives also note that there are dozens if not hundreds of apps containing the word "gay" in the iPhone/iPad app store, covering everything from same-sex dating to "gay travel" to "gay news."

"That Apple would deem the Manhattan Declaration as 'offensive' is alarming and distressing," the ManhattanDeclaration.org petition states. "Some who are 'offended' by the Manhattan Declaration can only be offended by the positions the Manhattan Declaration takes -- positions based on biblical Christianity and affirmed by nearly half a million Christians representing dozens of denominations."

Apple has a history of helping liberal causes, and in 2008 donated $100,000 to opponents of California Prop 8, the constitutional amendment that protected the traditional definition of marriage. Prop 8 passed.

The petition asserts that the Manhattan Declaration "in a civil, reasoned, and respectful way, promotes the sanctity of every human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom."

"Despite the claims of some, the Declaration does not promote hate or homophobia," the petition says. "It is not anti-gay. Rather, it proclaims that all human beings are loved by God and are worthy of respect. Civil discourse is a hallmark of a civilized and free society. Disagreement is not hate."

Brian Brown, an original declaration signer and the president of the National Organization for Marriage, said there is irony in Apple's decision.

"In only a single generation we've gone from Apple blowing up Big Brother to Apple creating its own garden of 'pure' ideology, censoring thoughts with which they disagree!" Brown wrote, referencing the iconic 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial that showed a woman running into a theater and tossing a sledgehammer at a large screen where a dictatorial leader had been speaking. The commercial said the year 1984 would be nothing like the fictional book. "... The internet was supposed to be a great tool of free expression. Steve Jobs, surely you cannot want to be the man who uses his corporate power to turn it into a tool to shut down thoughts with which you disagree!"


Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Read Baptist Press' earlier coverage of the Manhattan Declaration at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=31736.

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