Censorship and bad Apples

The media lines are all humming with outrage about an iPhone app. Not the one that lets you avoid police checkpoints if you’re driving drunk, nor the one that gives detailed instructions on abusing illegal drugs – those are still readily available on the App Store.

No, the biggest story at the moment is about a self-help app from Exodus International. It provides information to assist people who want to make a lifestyle change.

That’s about it.

But that’s not how the media are reporting it:

CBS News: Church head: “Gay cure” iPhone app not offensive

ABC News: Apple Pulls ‘Anti-Gay’ App After Pressure

Huffington Post: Apple Pulls Controversial ‘Gay Cure’ App

Washington Post: …Apple complied with increasingly vocal requests to remove the “gay cure” app.

CNET News: Apple pulls ‘gay cure’ app following protests

Forbes.com: Apple Boots ‘Gay Cure’ App

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The most alarming aspect of the coverage, I think, is the scare-quotes with which each media outlet is slavishly describing the app as a “gay cure” or “anti-gay” product. They’re all doing the same spin-job while pretending to report on the story. The Washington Post even admits in its article that the “Gay cure” nickname is inappropriate and nonsensical, but it’s in the headline nonetheless.

Jeff Buchanan, a senior director of Exodus International, said, “It’s being touted as a ‘gay cure’ app, and nothing could be further from the truth.” The organisation’s website clarifies their position further:

“Exodus does not claim to cure anyone.  That is not within our ability and certainly beyond the ability of our iPhone application, which simply provided mobile access to information available on our website. As complex human beings, sexual attractions develop for many known and unknown reasons and no one chooses those, but as sexual beings, we all make decisions about how to express ourselves. For those who consider the Bible to be life-giving truth, homosexual attractions and the desire to act on them are at odds with the desire to live a life that reflects the Christian faith and often results in moral tension.

… Exodus doesn’t believe there is a “cure” for homosexuality, adultery, arrogance, gossip or any other sin. There is, however, Jesus who paid the price for it all when He died on the cross. Then there is the daily, sometimes moment-by-moment, decision to live a life congruent with His teaching.

Our desire was simply to provide information to individuals exploring and looking for answers that are consistent with their own beliefs.  Apple already provides hundreds of apps specific to the GLBT community and has made the Gay Christian Network’s podcasts available on its iTunes store.  Our hope was to see equality represented on the same platform.”

Despite initially releasing the app with a +4 rating (i.e., “containing no objectionable material”), Apple did an abrupt about-turn in response to strong pressure from GLBT-activist group Change.org. An Apple spokesman today said that “[the app] violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”

Alan Chambers, head of Exodus International, said recently in an interview: “I can understand people having an opinion about something. What I can’t understand is why they would find it offensive. The way it’s been touted and the scare tactics used by the other side – if that’s what it was all about, I would have signed (the petition) too.” Speaking to The Huffington Post, Chambers said, “I would hope in a perfect world that Apple would allow this diversity, that they would respect the diversity of their customers. It’s alarming to see that people who are opposed to free thought and diversity are attacking and causing this type of trouble for organizations like ours.”

For me, the question is one of free speech – will you let other people express their opinions even if you don’t agree with them? The developers of that app weren’t insisting that it come standard on every phone or that everyone in the world be forced to use it. They were expressing their opinion: that homosexuality is a choice, and that they believe it’s a bad choice.

Whether you or I agree with that opinion does not diminish their right to hold it. It’s an issue of free speech and the right to hold and express opinions. Are you so intolerant that you can’t abide anyone who disagrees with you?

The petition from Change.org condemns the app in pretty strong language: “No objectionable content? We beg to differ. Exodus’ message is hateful and bigoted.”

Fortunately for Change.org, they can “beg to differ” because they are allowed to express their opinions freely. It is very sad that they cannot seem to extend this courtesy to those who hold differing points of view.

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Related posts:

The relativist creed

Religion, sex and truth claims

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3 thoughts on “Censorship and bad Apples

  1. I think it’s fairly difficult to decry someone else for being a bigot without actually becoming one in the process. Whether one agrees with Exodus or not, this is completely illiberal and the scare-tactic headlines disgraceful. But Apple is a business, and they don’t want to be seen mixing with things that are unpopular.

    I’m fairly uncomfortable with the whole ‘ex-gay’ movement (I think Peter Ould’s ‘post-gay‘ view seems much more helpful.

    • Yeah, I understand that Apple are a business and that they are ultimately – and understandably – more concerned with keeping the majority of their customers happy than with taking an ethical stand. But I do think that it’s a pity that they tried to spin it. I’d rather that they didn’t offer any explanation than try to push a silly line like “There’s nothing objectionable in this app but a lot of people seem to be mad about it anyway, so we’ll pretend that it’s offensive.”

      I’m more concerned about the intolerance and trampling of free speech by Change.org than with the specific theological position that Exodus is taking.

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