Christian Leaders Protest Apple's Removal of 'Anti-Gay' App
Christian leaders pressure Apple to continue selling controversial application.
Dec. 2 2010— -- It's been said that Apple products are instruments of the divine, but it seems that some religious leaders think the tech company is on the wrong side of God on at least one issue -- an iPhone application opposing gay marriage.
After Apple removed the controversial application from its iTunes app store, a group of Christian leaders sent a letter to the company protesting the decision.
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 letter sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs earlier this week, the religious leaders said they were disappointed to learn that the company stopped selling the application, which included the text of the "Manhattan Declaration."
"We do not know exactly why the app was pulled, as we have yet to receive any explanation from Apple, but we assume that it was the result of pressure brought to bear by some who, for blatantly ideologically partisan reasons, claim that the Manhattan Declaration is bigoted, or otherwise offensive," they said. "We hope that you will see how wrong it would be to let one side shut down the opposing side in a debate by slandering their opponents with prejudicial labels such as "bigot" or "homophobe."
The letter was signed by Charles Colson, former aide to President Richard Nixon and head of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Dr. Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Dr. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School
The three leaders urged Apple to reinstate the application and are calling on their own supporters to e-mail Apple and sign a petition. According to the Manhattan Declaration website, more than 16,000 people have already signed their names in support.
In a statement, 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."
The iPhone application initially disappeared from the app store in late November after more than 7,000 people signed a Change.org petition urging Apple to delete it.
Calling it "anti-gay" and "anti-choice," the petition questioned Apple's decision to approve the application and deem it free of "objectionable content."
"Want to join the hate fest? There's an app for that!" Change.org said on its site. "Apple needs to hear from concerned people now! Let's send a strong message to Apple that supporting homophobia and efforts to restrict choice is bad business."
According to the Manhattan Declaration website, the declaration calls on Christians to "resist sexual immorality."
"We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct," it says.
This application is hardly the first to have stirred debate. Here are a few other iPhone applications that were too controversial for Apple's App store.
Last October, PepsiCo pulled the iPhone application AMP Up Before You Score from Apple's App store after it was deluged with criticism.
The application, which claimed to help men "score" with women, was launched to help the company promote its new AMP Energy drink.
In a statement, the company said removing the application was the "most appropriate course of action" after listening to "a variety of audiences," The Associated Press reported.
The app divided women into 24 categories, from artists and aspiring actresses to bookworms and businesswomen.
Once the user identified the kind of woman he was trying to score, the app provided "a cheatsheet on the stuff she's into, with lists, links and some surefire opening lines."
But that wasn't all. Assuming the guy got lucky, the app let him keep a "Brag List," with names, dates and other details. It also encouraged users to "flaunt it," by sharing their lists with friends via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
The app quickly generated online attacks from blogers, Twitter users and Facebook members.
The popular female-focused blog Jezebel called it "unacceptable and ridiculously offensive."
On Twitter, adopting the hashtag #pepsifail, hundreds of users protested the new app, some even threatening to boycott the company's products.
The criticism reached such a pitch that early last week, Pepsi tweeted an apology.
"Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it's in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail," it tweeted from the AMPwhatsnext Twitter account.
The description of the app said, "See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!"
The program displays a black and white picture of a baby with the sound of crying. Users shake the iPhone to stop the crying until Xs appear on the eyes of the baby. The company behind the app, Sikalosoft, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Apple offered an apology soon after it appeared, the same day the App Store reached 1 billion downloads.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the game was "deeply offensive" and should not have been approved for sale, according to The Associated Press.
"We sincerely apologize for this mistake," Kerris said in a statement.
Before Apple yanked this $999.99 iPhone and iPod Touch application from the App Store in August 2008, eight people had purchased the functionless application.
Designed by German developer Armin Heinrich, the program did nothing but broadcast to the world the wealth of the owner. Once downloaded and activated, "I Am Rich" displayed a glowing, red "ruby" on the user's iPhone screen.
In its official App Store description, the developer wrote: "The red icon on your iPhone or iPod Touch always reminds you (and others when you show it to them) that you were able to afford this. ... It's a work of art with no hidden function at all."
According to tech blog Valleywag, one curious patron accidentally downloaded the application, thinking it was a joke. But it seems that seven others -- five in the United States, one in Germany and one in France -- meant to actually buy the pricey program.
When another developer tried to spoof the "I Am Rich" app with a "poor man's version," Apple denied that one, too.
Submitted to Apple later in August 2008, "I Am Poor" was intended to be the ultimate un-status symbol.
"It displays my artistic rendition of the poor college students standard meal -- ramen, mac & cheese, and tuna fish," Hardy Macia, the app's developer and owner of Canterbury, N.H.-based Catamount Software, wrote on his blog after getting Apple's rejection notice.
Apple told him it was turned down because it didn't contain any user-accessible functionality, he said.
Macia said he adapted the app in March so that it's now an E-Book of P.T. Barnum's "Art of Money Getting." But he's still waiting for word from Apple.
"Their process -- why they approve stuff and why they don't -- is really a black-box type of thing," he told ABCNews.com.
In the game, users pretend to be drug dealers in New York City trying to make as much money as possible in 30 days by trafficking illegal substances.
Macia said Apple rejected him because it violated the company's guidelines for developers.
In its Software Development Kit (SDK), it says that "Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users."
But Macia told ABCnews.com that it's not like iTunes and the App Store don't contain any potentially offensive material. "The iTunes store has so many songs and movies about cocaine and killing people," he said.
And the number of farting applications easily exceeds 100, he added. "I find 137 farting applications objectionable," he said. "I find that a lot ruder than a game."
Macia went back to the drawing board, changed the name of the game to "Prohibition 1: Bootlegger," replaced the names of drugs with the names of alcohol and went back to Apple.
This time, the company approved it. Encouraged, Macia successfully submitted another game "Prohibition 3: Candy Wars," set in a future in which candy is illegal.
Since he'd scored with two games that were only cosmetically different from the original one that had been rejected, he tried once more. But, no such luck: It got the thumbs down again.
When an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoe at President George W. Bush during a news conference in December 2008, he inspired a monument, a host of Web games and, of course, an iPhone app.
But the glory of that game was short-lived.
The popular social media blog Mashable reported in February that "My Shoe," created by a developer in Pakistan, had been given the no-go by the App store team.
The game used the phone's accelerometer to let users pretend to throw a shoe at the former president.
In a rejection letter, Apple told the developer it determined that it could not "post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures," according to Mashable.
But the developer reportedly took issue with Apple's rejection, writing, "I feel this is huge discrimination against public opinion, as a major portion of world rejects Bush polices on Iraq and attacks on Pakistan."
Patrick Alphonso, president of Swamiware, received a similar response from Apple when he submitted "Obama Trampoline."
The game, he thought, was pretty innocuous. You choose a U.S. politician from either side of the political aisle and have him or her jump on a trampoline in the Oval Office. Using the accelerometer, you could make Sarah Palin do a flip, tilt a pants-less Bill Clinton to the side or turn Barack Obama upside down.
Having already successfully submitted strategy, word and card games, he expected it to get the green light.But Apple gave a firm "no."
"I was shocked. I was expecting to make millions of dollars on this game," Alphonso told ABCNews.com. "It's fun. People were crazy about Obama, about Palin. The artwork was great."
"They said it ridiculed public officials," he said, adding that the rule seemed to be: no cartoons of politicians.
But when he explored the back alleys of the App Store, he said he found another approved app that also featured a cartoon of a politician: "Pocket Arnold."
"[It] really killed me," he said.
But when he e-mailed Apple for further explanation, he said the company didn't provide more specifics.
Apple told the developer it was "inappropriate sexual content," according to PCWorld.com.
But MGD Development Director John van der Burg said, "Watching an episode of Baywatch on TV shows a lot more than iBoobs. Besides that, iBoobs is just a 3-D model and not even real."
The developer behind "Slasher" was also told his app was out of line.
Created by Josef Wankerl of Austin, Texas, the app displays a kitchen knife on the screen and plays the "horror" sound when you make a stabbing motion with the phone or iPod Touch.
He said it appeared August 6 but was yanked August 7.
Apple told him it violated the part of the guidelines that objected to "obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content," he said.
"I have no problem with people objecting to 'Slasher.' After all, everyone has their own personal taste. I do have a problem with the App Store refusing to publish 'Slasher' because they don't like it," he wrote to ABCNews.com in an e-mail.
He also said it bothers him that other approved Apps could also be seen as obscene or offensive. "Bar Fight Bottle," for example, lets you pretend to smash a bottle with your phone and other apps serve as pretend pistols, shot guns and ray guns.
He said he improved the app and was told, upon resubmitting it, that it had been approved. But despite weeks of e-mails, the status still says "Removed from Sale."
Although Apple is notoriously tight-lipped in its external relationships, one intrepid developer was able to get none other than the man behind the curtain, co-founder Steve Jobs himself, to weigh in on his rejection.
Almost on a whim, Alec Vance and Court Batson submitted "Freedom Time" to the App Store gatekeepers last summer.
"It's been a long eight years, but a new dawn is coming to America and the world. Our long international nightmare is almost over," the pair wrote on their company Juggleware LLC's Web site.
"In anticipation of that sweet moment," the company unveiled its app that gave a precise (to the tenth of a second) countdown to the inauguration of President Obama and the end of the Bush administration.
But Apple wouldn't have any of it.
"I thought there was a decent chance they would reject it but it was a chance I was willing to take," Vance told ABCNews.com. "I was disappointed."
He said Apple told him the app was defamatory. But Vance disagreed and decided to let the company's CEO know about it.
Surprisingly, Jobs wrote back: "Even though my personal political leanings are democratic, I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers. What's the point? Steve"
Vance wasn't entirely pleased with the company but was impressed by the CEO and took it as a good omen, he said.