Pray Away the Gay? Try Google Play!

Hate speech and bigotry by app

Living Hope Ministries uses Google Play to teach young people that same-sex attraction is a “sinful” disease that prayer and therapy can “cure.” Their app provides a roadmap to online and offline conversion therapy.

Should religion justify hate speech and bigotry?

Labeling LGBTQ youth as “sinful” and “diseased” while offering therapy to cure the disease surely counts as hate speech toward minorities. Google is offering an app through its Play Store right now that does exactly that. Let me give you some details and then a link to a petition demanding that Google stop facilitating a dangerous, fraudulent hate group.

But first, let’s get some facts on the table:

Decades of clinical experience demonstrate conclusively that therapy to “cure” LGBTQ people cannot change sexual orientation. Trying to change is dangerous. Conversion therapy is associated with high rates of suicide attempts. Jack Turban, writing in Psychology Today, notes that LGB youth who volunteer for conversion therapy suffer significantly higher negative mental health outcomes (including much higher suicide rates) than LGB youth who don’t try conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is recognized as being so dangerous that 15 US states ban the practice for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project’s Equality Maps.

So why is conversion therapy available by app on Google Play?

That’s what Truth Wins Out wants to know. They’re an LGBTQ advocacy organization dedicated to fighting conversion therapy. Toward the end of last year, they discovered that Living Hope Ministries works online to teach young people and their parents that same-sex attraction is a “sinful” disease that prayer can “cure.” They offer a mobile app that teaches self-administered conversion therapy techniques and offers referrals to to outside programs.

Early in December, Truth Wins Out asked Amazon, Microsoft, Apple,and Google to remove the app from their on-line stores. Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple pulled the app almost as soon as it was brought to their attention. So far, Google has neither pulled the app nor given any feedback to Truth Wins Out.

Here’s an excerpt from a ‘Truth Wins Out’ press release dated December 27 —

WASHINGTON — Truth Wins Out urged supporters who care about the mental health of LGBT youth to sign a new petition today at Change.org urging Google to delete a dangerous and demeaning “pray away the gay” app from its online store. TWO expressed deep concern and disappointment with Google, a company that touts diversity, yet is peddling a deceptive app that that stigmatizes and dehumanizes LGBT people.
“Google can’t have it both ways,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Either the company stands for diversity and decency, or it stands with an app that promotes hate and harm to LGBT people, particularly vulnerable youth who are targeted by this deceptive and destructive app. We strongly urge Google to stop its inexplicable foot-dragging and follow its own stated principles and guidelines by eliminating this toxic product.”

The app is still available as of January 11 —

I installed it today, and I’m looking at it right now. Here’s what it teaches:

  • Same-gender sex is ‘sordid’ and is caused by a disease like diabetes.
  • Same-sex attraction is a harmful addiction like drug addiction.
  • Men who have sex with men are behaving like dogs who have no control over instinctual sexual behavior.
  • Most men who experience same-sex attraction were sexually abused as children.
  • Lesbians experience same-sex attraction because they don’t trust men and because they allow themselves to be possessed and controlled by other women.
  • Same-sex attracted people need to be and can be healed from the bondage of sin, disease, and addiction.
  • Changing same-sex attraction requires pain and sacrifice.
  • One-on-one friendships are dangerous and unhealthy for same-sex attracted people, who should pursue group friendships instead of individual friendships.
  • Parents should tightly restrict their same-sex-attracted minor children’s social interactions and Internet access. Same-sex friendships should be discouraged or forbidden.
  • Parents should firmly direct their minor children into counseling programs that will cure them of same-sex attraction.
  • People attempting healing from homosexuality experience higher success rates than people attempting healing from alcoholism and drug addiction.

LHM’s app is fraudulent —

All of their claims about the causes of sexual orientation and about changing sexual organizations are verifiably false. The Human Rights Campaign has collected dozens of statements and links from mental health organizations attesting to overwhelming scientific evidence that conversion therapy cannot change how people experience sexual attraction.

LHM’s app is dangerous —

  • Conversion therapy causes serious (and even fatal) negative mental health outcomes in young people. Voluntary conversion therapy is significantly more dangerous for young people than forced therapy.
  • Teaching that LGBTQ people are “diseased” and “sinful” increases stigmatization and leads to bullying and violence against vulnerable people.
  • Teaching parents to forbid friendships and normal socializing to their LGBTQ children is especially damaging. Instead of asking parents to love and accept their children, LHM is actively promoting family alienation.

It’s time for Google to act and get the app off the Internet —

LHM is making a case for freedom of religion, but this app isn’t about religion. It’s about making fraudulent and dangerous mental health claims that fall outside the purview of religious practice.

Conversion therapy is ineffective and dangerous regardless of any religious claims to the contrary. Homophobic hate speech is beyond the pale despite attempts to justify it religiously. Calling LGBTQ people diseased and comparing us to rutting dogs is obnoxious, incendiary, and clearly rises to the level of unacceptable hate speech.

Google would never tolerate fraud and hate speech directed against racial minorities. Google must not treat gender and sexual minorities with any less respect. We deserve the same protection from hate speech as any human being.

For more information about Google, please see the link below to the Truth Wins Out petition on change.org.

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