By December 2018, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon had all banished the Living Hope Ministries app, following outcry from LGBT activists and allies who said the app promoted gay conversion therapy. But as of press time, the app is still available for download from Google’s Play Store, and more than 139,000 petitioners are wondering why.
The petition, hosted on Change.org, demands that Google “stop peddling dangerous ‘pray away gay’ app targeting LGBT youth.” The organizers write:
By any standard, the app is awful. It brazenly compares homosexuality to an addiction. It casually trashes LGBT people as living “destructive lifestyles.” Living Hope, the creator of the app, repeatedly belittles transgender people as suffering from “gender confusion.” The group refers to gay men as “sexually broken guys” who can “walk out of false identities” and claims, without evidence, that the “gay lifestyle” is “spiritually and physically harmful.”
One of the strongest condemnations of the app comes from Randy Thomas, a former executive director of Living Hope who now runs the Orlando-based organization Thrive LGBT.
After his work with Living Hope, Thomas joined Exodus International, which he describes as “the largest umbrella group for sexual-orientation change efforts,” and fought to keep Exodus’s own “‘ex-gay’ phone app” online on Apple’s App Store. “Our goal was to use the app to lead LGBT people to our programs that purportedly helped to turn them into heterosexuals through the power of Jesus Christ,” he wrote in a column for the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month.
“I can attest to the harm such programs cause, particularly when they target vulnerable and desperate LGBT youth, who are bombarded with messages of guilt and shame,” Thomas continued. “Having served in the upper echelons of this movement, I can say that I have yet to meet a single person who has transitioned from homosexuality to heterosexuality. The slick marketing tales of inspiration are really tragic cries of desperation by people praying for a miracle that never comes. All I observed, including in my own life, was a combination of wishful thinking and constant suffering. I oppose the Living Hope app because I don’t want LGBT youth following in my footsteps.”
The app has also drawn ire from The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign, Axios reports.
“We are hopeful that technology companies recognize the harm of apps that promote conversion therapy. The Trevor Project hears from conversion therapy survivors in crisis every day, and we remain committed to ending the harmful practice in every state because we know it contributes to an increased risk of suicidal behavior among LGBTQ youth,” said Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley.
“We have been urging Google to remove this app because it is life-threatening to LGBTQ youth and also clearly violates the company’s own standards,” an HRC spokesperson stated. “Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have taken action to remove the app from their platforms, but so far Google has refused despite our warnings about the dangers.”
Per Axios, Google hasn’t commented on the matter.