The following is being released by PFLAG National:
Mr. Steve Jobs
Apple Computer, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Jobs:
I write to you today not only as the president of PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), but as the parent of a lesbian daughter – and a rabbi – who has walked a path through his life and faith from confusion and fear of rejection to acceptance, full support and celebration.
I have spent a good part of the last week watching the number of signatures rise on the petition to remove the Exodus International iPhone app from iTunes. I have heard the cries from both sides of the argument, from the damage done by Exodus International and similar groups in the area of helping those with same-sex attraction attain sexual holiness, to the concern over free speech rights for religious groups.
I am in full support of free speech – as a rabbi, much of my work depended on my ability to speak out from my heart. However, the right to express an opinion is sometimes rightly limited by the moral responsibility to do no harm.
Apple's past actions to remove some apps from the iTunes store certainly reinforces this harm none belief. Aside from the recent removal of apps that Apple considered to be pornographic, Apple has come down with more than a few decisions to remove apps they considered to be inappropriate, or perhaps harmful to people or a group of people. The BabyShaker app, the Slasher app, Dope Wars – each originally approved then removed due to concerns of potential harm. In fact, in the case of the Slasher app, the removal occurred after a spate of actual stabbings in the United Kingdom caused parents to speak out against Apple's original approval of the app.
The reason for the removal of such apps is explained in the app guidelines themselves. Section 14.1 states Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms *sic+ way will be rejected.
There is no question in my mind, as one who has worked with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for more than 30 years, that the Exodus International app will place LGBT people in harm's way.
Additionally, Section 19 of Apple's app guidelines reads:
19.1 Religion, culture, and ethnicity Apps containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected
19.2 Apps may contain or quote religious text provided the quotes or translations are accurate and not misleading. Commentary should be educational or informative rather than inflammatory
The mission of Exodus International – to help LGBT people see that they can choose to not be LGBT – is harmful. Such efforts have been condemned by every respected medical and psychological group in this country as explicitly dangerous and harmful to both physical and mental health. As such, promoting Exodus' mission through the Exodus International app will expose the LGBT population to potential harm or violence. I see it in communities around the country – and we read about it in communities around the world – every day. The religious text provided in this app is disguised as educational and informative, but is misleading and inflammatory.
Finally, the app guidelines state, We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don't work unless the parents set them up (many don't). So know that we're keeping an eye out for the kids.
Mr. Jobs, there are LGBT children and young adults around the country who are hearing messages that they are inherently bad, or need to change who they are in order to be loved or accepted. These kids are confronted every day with teasing, bullying, and physical aggression. I'm sure that you've seen news reports on how many of these situations play out in communities across the country.
These kids need to make a positive, affirming connection – social networking and technology can offer this in a way that sometimes no one in their community or family can. But the Exodus app reinforces the message that to be good they need to be something other than what they are. No child should have to hear this message. So, who is keeping an eye out for these kids?
It is our responsibility.
As the father of an LGBT daughter, my goals are the same as the goal of any parent: to raise a child who is capable, self-confident and loves herself, and to offer nothing less than unconditional love and support to her.
Mr. Jobs, there is no app for that.
Based on your own guidelines, and their absolute contradiction to what we know, through research, is explicitly harmful both mentally and physically to LGBT people, we respectfully request that you remove the Exodus International app from iTunes.
Rabbi David M. Horowitz,
President, PFLAG National