March 23, 2011— -- Apple has removed a controversial "anti-gay" app from its App Store after nearly 150,000 people signed an online petition requesting its removal.
Released in mid-February by the Orlando, Fla.-based Christian group Exodus International, the free app provided 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.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the application was still available for download in the App Store. But, later Tuesday night Change.org, the group behind the petition, posted an update saying that the app was no longer in the App Store. The group said it wanted to keep pressure on Apple until the company released a statement explaining its decision.
An Apple spokesman today confirmed to ABCNews.com that the company removed it.
"We removed the app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people," he said.
Jeff Buchanan, senior director of church equipping and student ministries for the group, told ABCNews.com that his group is "taking this one day at a time," but plans to appeal Apple's decision.
"We are currently evaluating our strategy, as far as what we will do at this point in time," he said. "We do plan to pursue possible other avenues or other [smartphone] platforms, but that remains to be seen."
Earlier, Buchanan told ABCNews.com that the group was disappointed to see the negative reaction to its app.
"What we're asking for is fair and equal representation on the Apple platform," he said. "We see this as a religious freedom."
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.
Petition: App Is 'Hateful,' 'Bigoted'
On its homepage, Exodus emphasizes that its "4+" rating from Apple means that the app contains "no objectionable content."
But the 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 150,000 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.
This is not 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.