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Reparative therapy and transformational ministries

Conflict over Ipod "apps," mainly involving
Exodus International, LGBT's and Apple.

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The term "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

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Background of the conflict:

There is an intense debate among religious and therapeutic groups concerning how "homosexuality" is to be defined, whether it can be changed, whether a person should attempt to change it, and whether attempts to change are dangerous. It is a classic science vs. religion conflict in which many conservative faith groups hold beliefs that conflict with the beliefs of essentially all of the secular therapeutic associations, along with liberal faith groups, human sexuality researchers, etc. The conflict is further complicated by different definitions used by the two sides.

There are three main groups contributing to "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE):

  • All of the major professional mental health associations define the term "homosexuality" according to one's sexual orientation: lesbians and gays exhibit feelings of sexual attraction only to members of the same gender. Further, the associations teach that sexual orientation is unchangeable in adults. However, even as their sexual orientation remains unchanged, some highly motivated lesbians and gays can change their behavior by making a personal decision to remain sexually inactive; i.e. celibate. Bisexuals can also change their behavior by deciding to seek relationships only with persons of the opposite gender.

    Many of these associations involved warn of the near 100% failure rate of attempts to change sexual orientation, and the dangers to individuals who engage in SOCE.

    The American Psychological Association recently evaluated 83 SOCE studies and concluded that :
    "These studies show that enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon. The participants in this body of research continued to experience same-sex attractions following SOCE and did not report significant change to othersex attractions that could be empirically validated, though some showed lessened physiological arousal to all sexual stimuli. Compelling evidence of decreased same-sex sexual behavior and of engagement in sexual behavior with the other sex was rare. Few studies provided strong evidence that any changes produced in laboratory conditions translated to daily life. Thus, the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce samesex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE. ... We found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm from SOCE." 4
  • Exodus International (EI), along with many other similar conservative Protestant para-church groups, offer SOCE services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual (LGBT) community. Exodus teaches that homosexual tendencies are "one of many conditions that beset fallen humanity" and that numerous passages in the Bible condemn same-sex sexual behavior. They teach that what they term "reorientation" of same-sex attraction is possible for many if not most lesbians, gays and bisexuals who are dedicated to the process. Their stated beliefs are that:
    "... the decision to leave homosexuality is not about one particular method, but ultimately about a relationship with Jesus Christ and a resolution to live in congruence with biblical teaching on sexuality. Reparative therapy — a holistic, counseling method used by a minority of counseling professionals in addressing unwanted same-sex attraction — may be one of many tools helpful to some in this process. It is not the sole approach used, nor is it essential for one to live a life beyond homosexuality. We believe homosexuality to be a multi-causal, developmental issue and that any individual can experience freedom through the support of caring individuals and the healing power of Jesus Christ. Exodus International provides resources, spiritual mentorship and support to those seeking this alternative. Exodus is a worldwide network of men and women who have found freedom from homosexuality and the largest Christian ministry dealing with this topic in the world today." 1
    In short, they teach that personal "change" is possible. Their reference to "reorientation" apparently does not refer to a client actually changing their sexual orientation; EI generally describes personal change in terms of sexual behavior. They use vague terms like: leaving the homosexual lifestyle, obtaining freedom from homosexuality, etc. "Change" in Exodus generally refers to those gays and lesbians who choose and manage to adopt celibacy by being sexually inactive even though they are unable to change their same-sex orientation. It is also seen in those persons with a bisexual orientation who remain bisexuals but who make the conscious decision to confine their relationships to opposite-gendered persons.

  • The other main conservative Christian faith group, the Roman Catholic Church, does not offer SOCE programs. The church agrees with the findings of professional therapists and human sexuality researchers that a homosexual orientation is generally not chosen, and is unchangeable. However, they agree with conservative Protestants that:

    • A lesbian or gay sexual orientation is a disordered state and that

    • It is a very grave sin for any person to become sexually active with a same-sex partner.

    One Catholic mutual support group, Courage, advocates celibacy. It states:
    "By developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete one in Christ." 2
    The church does not recognize same-sex marriages. In fact, it has invested tens of millions of dollars in attempts to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining equal rights to marry. Thus, the term "chaste" involves celibacy even for spouses in a loving, committed, married relationship.

    Dignity, is an independent support group for "lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and friends." They promote an end to sexism and homophobia in church and society. They support same-sex marriages, adoption by same-sex couples, and an end to discrimination -- both inside the church and in the general culture -- against sexual minorities.

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About Ipod apps:

Apple Inc., producer of the Ipod cellular phone, encourages individuals and companies to create software applications -- called "apps" -- that can be purchased and downloaded onto Ipods and other devices with compatible operating systems. The apps can be purchased from the Apple online app store.

Apple's guidelines for app developers indicate that: "... any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm’s way will be rejected."

This presents a real problem with regard to an app involving the LGBT community. It is quite likely that:

  • Any app developed by the LGBT community will be probably treat all three sexual orientations as normal, natural, unchosen, fixed and morally neutral. This would be considered deeply offensive by most religious conservatives.

  • Any app involving homosexuality developed by a religiously conservative individual or group will probably describe homosexual orientation as disordered, abnormal, unnatural, chosen, and changeable. They would probably describe same-sex sexual behavior as a very serious sin, even between a loving-committed same-sex married couple. The LGBT community generally finds such beliefs to be deeply offensive as well.

Thus, it is probable that any app involving the LGBT community would be disqualified on grounds of offense.

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The Manhattan Declaration app:

A group of over 150 conservative Christian leaders -- "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical" -- released the Manhattan Declaration on 2009-NOV-21 at the National Press Club in Washington DC. 1 The document called for people to resist three perceived changes to the culture that the authors believe are deleterious and are currently being promoted by various liberal Christians, progressive Christians, liberals of other religions, secularists, etc. These are:

bullet Increasing women's access to abortion.

bullet Allowing all loving committed couples to marry, including same-sex couples.

bullet Restricting religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The latter involves professionals wishing to deny delivering certain services to minority groups.

The Declaration advocated civil disobedience if necessary to resist and roll back changes.

They define same-sex relationships as "immoral."

Apple initially gave their app a positive (4+) rating.

An online petition was raised to collect support for the removal of the app. It received almost 7,000 signatures.

In 2010-DEC, Apple removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the iTunes store

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Screen shot of the Exodus app The Exodus International app:

Exodus International (EI) released their app on 2011-FEB-15. The Toronto Star newspaper describes the group as "... an anti-gay religious organization that promotes 'reparative therapy' for those who want to 'recover from homosexuality'." 3 The app includes a calendar of public EI events, podcasts, video, 'real answers,' 'real stories' and links to Twitter and Facebook. EI describes it as being "... a useful resource for men, women, parents, students, and ministry leaders." Apple initially gave it a favorable 4+ approval rating.

Some LGBTs and their groups objected to the app, saying that it promotes discrimination and thus violates Apple's ethical guidelines for apps. A LGBT-positive group, Truth Wins Out (TWO) complained that:

"Exodus’ message is hateful and bigoted. They claim to offer 'freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ' and use scare tactics, misinformation, stereotypes and distortions of LGBT life to recruit clients." 3

Wayne Besen, founder of TWO, said:

"This app directs people to a website that portrays gay people as sick. Exodus’s message is that gay people don’t exist and that we’re just misbehaving heterosexuals."3

TWO placed a petition online to collect signatures from people who wanted the EI app removed. They collected over 154,000 signatures. 5

Conmcerend about the initial lack of response from Apple to the petition , Bensen commented:

"We're absolutely stunned that Apple has remained silent in the face of enormous criticism and the alienation of a customer base. I’ve never seen such a 'bury-your-head-in-the-sand' mentality. Apple needs to understand that this is going to elevate to press conferences and protests if they don’t take down the app."3

"This is an infuriating and horrible business decision. Apple needs to move quickly or they risk tarnishing their brand."

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, a Canadian LGBT-positive group contacted Apple on 2011-MAR-22. She told Apple’s marketing director marketing director:

"Providing an application such as this for something as popular as the iPhone legitimizes people being homophobic. What you’re telling people, particularly young people, is that it’s not okay to be gay. It stereotypes gay people, and it is offensive." 3

Apple removed the app on the evening of 2011-MAR-22. Their spokesperson Tom Neumayr told FoxNews.com"

"We removed the Exodus International app from the app store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International posted on Twitter:

"It’s official. The @ExodusInl App is no longer in the @AppleStore. Incredibly disappointing. Watch out, it could happen to you." 5

In an interview, Exodus International spokesman Jeff Buchanan said:

"We consider this an alarming trend for our culture in which there seems to be a lack of diversity and tolerance being displayed on the iTunes platform. Currently, other organizations that have opposing theological views are allowed to have applications on the platform, and we’re simply asking for fair and equal representation." 5

Wayne Besen called Apple’s decision:

"Terrific. Apple looked at their customer base and realized they were incredibly offended. In the end, they acted decisively and we’re excited about that." 5

Michael Jones, editor-in-chief of Change.org -- the website that posted the petition in cooperation with TWO -- said:

"What Apple is saying here is that this so-called 'reparative therapy,' or a cure for gay people. has no place on the iTunes platform. Companies that create apps must ensure they adhere to Apple’s guidelines. Removing the Exodus International app is consistent with the guidelines." 5

The Exodus International app remains functional, on those Ipods, Ipods and similar devices that downloaded the app before it was removed from the Itunes website.

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References used:

  1. "What Does Exodus Believe About Sexual Orientation & Change?," 2009-DEC, Exodus International, at: http://exodusinternational.org/
  2. "The Courage Apostolate Home Page," at: http://couragerc.net/
  3. Kenyon Wallace, "Apple under fire for ‘anti-gay’ iPhone app," 2010-MAR-22, Toronto Star, at:http://www.thestar.com/
  4. "Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation," American Psychological Association, 2009-AUG, at: http://www.apa.org/ This is a PDF file.
  5. "Apple removes controversial ‘gay cure’ app," Toronto Star, 2011-MAR-24, at: http://www.thestar.com/
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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2011-MAR-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

Go to the previous page, or to the "The impact of religion on homosexuality and bisexuality" menu, or to the "Reparative and other therapies" menu, or to the "Religious freedom transition" menu, choose:

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