…But only if opposing viewpoints are effectively silenced?
Nice going folks. After a Truth Wins Out Change.org
petition that gathered over 150,000 signatures, Apple has successfully been
pressured into removing a controversial iPhone app created by ex-gay religious organization Exodus International.
So why are we not exactly celebrating here at AfterElton? First, we’re bracing for the inevitable: complaints from groups like Exodus, AFA and NOM that this is yet another example of “gay activists” bullying and trying to silence Christians.
Second, and more importantly, as vehemently as we might disagree with Exodus
International’s mission and beliefs, we think they should be allowed to express them.
Exodus International’s smartphone app was basically a platform for
their blogs, podcasts, latest news and FAQs – essentially the same material you could find if you went to their website. It’s not as if the thing was marketed as some sort of magical/religious gay cure in and of itself.
And even if it was, anybody offended and yes, disgusted even, by the Exodus International app could
of course choose not to download and install it.
But honestly, how many people were offended by the application itself? How many people even saw the thing? Certainly not 150,000. It’s more likely that most of the people signing that Change.org petition simply didn’t like Exodus International and all that they stand for.
Apple says the app was removed because it was
“offensive to large groups of people.” But lots of things are
offensive to large groups of people. Does the GLBT community really want that to be the standard for what is allowed on Apple’s increasingly
pivotal app store? How soon until Apple gets a petition to remove Grindr? What if The Trevor Project tried to release an app to assist gay teens?
Speaking of gay teens, Truth Wins Out claimed that a key rationale for the petition was “stopping a virulently
anti-gay organization from peddling false speech at the expense of
vulnerable LGBT youth.” This has an ironically familiar ring to it. The right is forever saying it is teens and children who should be protected from gay content. With this precedent established those Christian activists can now make the exact same case in opposing any gay apps they don’t like.
Earlier this month the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision
ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church had
a First Amendment Right to wave their vile “God Hates Fags” signs outside of
And the court got it exactly right.
Of course, you can distinguish the Westboro decision from
the facts here in that Westboro was spewing their hateful message in a public space. Apple’s online app store is a private space, and thus
they have the right to include/exclude whatever organizations and applications
But it seems clear that Apple’s dominance in the smartphone
and tablet markets means that their App store has become a substantial channel
for communication. How confident are you that the next public outcry and petition that Apple responds to won’t be to kick off a pro-Gay app?
We’re not very confident at all.
Remember, it was less than a year ago that Apple rejected a graphic novel based on an Oscar Wilde play because it contained cartoon images of two men kissing! The company eventually relented and allowed the app (with offending panels blacked out!)
Meanwhile, similar graphic novels depicting heterosexual kissing had no problems getting past the Apple App Store gatekeepers uncensored.
Perhaps Apple shouldn’t be in the business of censoring content at all. And if they are going to do that, then at least they should publish some very clear standards. “Offensive to large groups of people” isn’t a standard the GLBT community – or any minority community – should feel comfortable with.