UPDATE: An Amazon spokesperson informed Truth Wins Out (TWO) Thursday night that the company had removed the Living Hope Ministries app from its store. Margaret Waterman of Amazon Corporate Communications wrote, “We take these matters seriously and the app has been removed from the Amazon Appstore as it is in violation of our policies.”
TWO Executive Director Wayne Besen said in a statement that “Amazon displayed laudable corporate accountability by taking a firm stand against a program that we believe bilks consumers and potentially causes considerable damage to the people they claim to help.”
Google remains the only platform on which the anti-gay app is still available.
EARLIER: An app encouraging users that they can “recover” from same-sex attractions through prayer continues to be accessible on Google and Amazon’s platforms days after Apple removed it from its store.
Living Hope Ministries is a Texas-based organization that claims to support “those who are seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.” In short, they preach that people can — and should — pray the gay away, despite ample evidence that sexual orientation cannot be changed and that attempts to change it are harmful.
The app is fairly rudimentary, giving users access to various podcasts, articles, and devotionals that all promote its ex-gay messages. One of the recent podcast episodes, for example, features a mom talking about how her family reacted when their teenage son came out as gay. “God has not made same-sex attraction go away for him,” the mom explains, “and so he really struggles to know where God is in all of this.” She says that Living Hope has given her family hope that eventually he will overcome these struggles, but in the meantime they’ve imposed many limitations to his access to the internet and required that he meet with a minister weekly.
Articles on the organization’s site lay out things like “keys to recovery from same-sex attraction” and explain that one’s orientation “is not really towards a particular sex per se, but very naturally towards sin.” Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are regularly referred to as “broken” across the site.
Truth Wins Out (TWO), an organization that campaigns against conversion therapy, launched a petition against the app last week. Though it’s been available for three years, Apple very quickly complied with removing the app, so now TWO is targeting Google and Amazon to do the same.
In a new open letter, TWO Executive Director Wayne Besen applauds Google and Amazon for being LGBTQ-friendly but criticizes them for allowing the Living Hope Ministries app to still be available in their stores. (ThinkProgress successfully downloaded and interacted with the Android version of the app Thursday morning.)
In addition to citing the research against conversion therapy, Besen notes the research showing how important it is that families support and affirm their LGBTQ kids — the exact opposite of what the mom on the podcast describes. In fact, studies have shown that family acceptance is the biggest factor in ensuring positive outcomes for LGBTQ youth.
“The app that you offer from Living Hope does not simply represent honest differences of opinion,” Besen implores. “The sole mission of the app is stigmatizing LGBT people. If one clicks the app, it is an echo chamber of repetitive, negative messages that portray gay people as less-than and inferior.”
TWO also published a video this week highlighting some of these negative messages:
This isn’t the first time that mobile platforms have come under fire for hosting apps with anti-LGBTQ messages and promotions of conversion therapy. Back in 2011, Apple came under fire for allowing an app from Exodus International, the now-defunct umbrella organization for conversion therapy ministries. A year prior, there was also public pressure over an app promoting the Manhattan Declaration, a document conservatives signed swearing their allegiance to opposing LGBTQ equality in society.
This article has been updated to reflect the app’s removal from Amazon’s platform and comments from a company spokesperson.