March 22, 2011— -- A so-called "anti-gay" application in Apple's App Store is stirring debate online, but despite a petition signed by more than 100,000 people, Apple has given no indication that it will be removed.
Released in mid-February by the Orlando, Fla.-based Christian group Exodus International, the free app provides video, podcasts, blog posts and other content that reflect the group's mission as a "refuge for people looking for help in their journey out of homosexuality."
"Exodus is a Christian ministry that supports those wanting to reconcile their faith with their sexual behavior," the group says on its site, adding that it believes that changing homosexuality is possible because thousands of people in its network can attest to it. On its homepage, Exodus emphasizes that its "4+" rating from Apple means that the app contains "no objectionable content."
But a Change.org petition launched soon after the app's release, takes a very different view.
"No objectionable content? We beg to differ. 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," the petition says. "They endorse the use of so-called 'reparative therapy' to 'change' the sexual orientation of their clients, despite the fact that this form of 'therapy' has been rejected by every major professional medical organization including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association. But reparative therapy isn't just bad medicine -- it's also very damaging to the self-esteem and mental health of its victims."
The petition, which has been signed by nearly 130,000 people, maintains that the app is Exodus' latest attempt to target youth, which is says is particularly "dangerous" given the recent LGBT youth suicides across the country. Apple did not respond to a request for comment from ABCNews.com.
Jeff Buchanan, senior director of church equipping and student ministries for Exodus International, said the app is not intended only for young people but for a broad demographic that shares the church's beliefs.
"We are reaching those with unwanted same sex attraction," he said. "We were disappointed to see this petition. What we're asking for is fair and equal representation on the Apple platform. ?We see this as a religious freedom."
Previous 'Anti-Gay' App Pulled by Apple
Buchanan said that given that the "pro-gay" Metropolitan Community Church of New York has a place in Apple's online store (with a podcast app), Exodus should be allowed to distribute its application there as well.
Since the online protests started, he said, his group has not had any response from Apple.
But this isn't the first "anti-gay" app to cause a flap in Apple's iTunes store. In November, Apple pulled another controversial application after just 7,000 people signed an online petition at Change.org.
The application, called Manhattan Declaration, was a "call of Christian Conscience" that advocated "the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty," according to its website.
In a statement at the time, Apple said, "We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."