Gay activists target Exodus iPhone app
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Three months after Apple made the much-criticized decision to pull the Manhattan Declaration Christian iPhone app, another controversy could be brewing as the nation's leading Christian ex-gay ministry has launched its own app -- and homosexual activists want it removed, too.
The new app by Exodus International was launched in Apple's app store on March 8, but there already are 2,500 signatures at a Change.org petition urging Apple to pull the app on the grounds that it is "hateful and bigoted." Change.org is the same website that successfully pressured Apple to pull the Manhattan Declaration app, which contained the text of a document with historical Christian teachings on sexuality, abortion and religious freedom. The Change.org petition against the Manhattan Declaration had 7,700 signatures.
Homosexual activists also are targeting the Exodus app's ratings, which sometimes are critical in helping an iPhone owner determine whether to download an app. As of March 11 the Exodus app was rated two out of five stars based on 77 ratings -- most of them negative. One reviewer called Exodus a "fanatical group" and another said it was "as dangerous to Christianity as al-Qaeda is to Islam." Based on their ideology, reviewers are rating it either five stars or one star. The app is free.
Exodus sent out a press release March 8 announcing the new app, and then another release March 10 warning that pressure could force Apple to remove the app. ("App" is short for "application" and is nothing more than a software program for a smartphone.)
"We saw the app as another opportunity to reach the world -- to reach a larger demographic with our message," Jeff Buchanan, senior director of church equipping and student ministries for Exodus, told Baptist Press. "And based on a small group of activists being very vocal about their disagreement with Exodus and its message, we fear that Apple will censor our ability to be able to get our message out."
Buchanan said he hopes Christians who own an iPhone will give the app positive ratings and feedback, and he encouraged iPhone owners also to send Apple a note of appreciation at http://www.apple.com/support/itunes/contact.html.
Known for its Love Won Out conferences, Exodus ministers to homosexuals and equips churches to do the same. Its website makes clear it believes that "freedom from homosexuality" is possible. The Exodus app contains several sections, including icons for news and events, and a link to the Exodus students' webpage.
"We have to acknowledge the fact that there is an organized bias that is slanting the rating on the application, and by no means does it reflect the quality or the content that is in the app," Buchanan said.
The app is needed, Buchanan said, to reach out to those struggling with same-sex attractions. He once was among those struggling with his feelings. Saved at the age of 13, he said he had same-sex attractions as a teenager but heard a "very condemning message" from his church.
"So I didn't tell anyone. I entered into a three-year same-sex relationship in my mid-20s and really felt the conviction of the Lord to turn away from that. I began the process of walking out of that in 1991," said Buchanan, who married his wife Angela in 2003.
To find the app, search for "Exodus International" in the iPhone app store.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.