Apple pulls ‘gay cure’ app from its store, but will Google?

Jun 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM ET

Are you a gay man or woman eager to change his or her sexual orientation? There’s an app for that.

The non denominational Setting Captives Free Ministry claims it can cure homosexuality with a 60-day interactive course with its smartphone application.

“Door of Hope: Freedom from the Bondage of Homosexuality” is a featured course in the Setting Captives Free app, currently available in the Google Play store for Android and tablets. Apple pulled the app from the iTunes store in early June after a successful awareness campaign from gay rights organization All Out, which launched a petition against the app. Members of All Out will be delivering the petition to Google headquarters in New York this afternoon at 2pm EST.

“You can be set free from the bondage of homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ and the cross!” reads the course preview, written by Setting Captives Free founder and president Mike Cleveland of Medina, Ohio (emphasis his).

“First, let me just say that despite what you may have heard elsewhere, you do not have a ‘homosexual gene,’ nor were you born this way with no hope of freedom,” he writes in Day 1, Part 1.

All Out disagrees. “A lot of leaders who call for the imprisonment of gays and lesbians refer to it as a choice,” Joe Mirabella tells Vocativ. Mirabella is the Communications Director for All Out. “Psychologists, medical associations, and respected health professionals around the world have called any attempts to cure gay people not only dangerous, but a practice that just doesn’t work. As New Jersey and California and Brazil and Ecuador are making it illegal to ‘cure’ young people, Google has left its app in the Google Play store where anyone can access it.”

Apple responded to All Out’s petition to remove the app within 24 hours earlier this month, citing a violation of their terms and conditions. According to ABC News, Clause 16.1 in the App Store Guidelines was the specific citation: “Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected. Apps that are primarily designed to upset or disgust users will be rejected.” Apple previously removed a similar “ex-gay” app by Exodus International in March 2011 after a campaign by Change.org.

Google has declined to meet with All Out. “We’re particularly troubled that Google has taken so long to remove the app because they have such a strong history of equality,” Mirabella said. According to Mirabella, Google has said the app does not violate its terms and conditions. Google Play is traditionally a more open store than iTunes, as Google has not been as swift or frequent to remove apps compared to Apple. Google guidelines say nothing about “objectionable content,” unlike Apple’s, as noted by ABC — though they do have a ban on hate speech. The tech giant did ban a porn app for Google Glass this month.

Not all gay rights advocates think the app should be pulled. Greg Palmer, an openly gay writer and technology advocate, asks: “Do we want corporations to be arbiters of political speech? The Gay Cure apps certainly have no medical basis, so that makes them inherently political. I don’t want Apple, Google, or anyone else telling people what speech is or isn’t valid.”

But Mirabella says the First Amendment isn’t the issue. “This isn’t necessarily an issue about free speech, it’s about whether or not we want to have dangerous medical practices available to minors… This is something that is dangerous and could lead to suicide for young people. It’s about a health practice that several jurisdictions have determined is not only dangerous but should be illegal.”

Palmer isn’t convinced. “I see banning speech as a huge step, and a tactic that almost never works,” he says. “When you don’t like speech, the only way to win is to convince people that it’s wrong and that you are right.”

“Door of Hope” is available for free on the Setting Captives Free website, which also features courses on freedom from pornography, substance abuse, gambling and more.