Truth Wins Out Calls for Immediate Answers on Why Google Hasn’t Yet Nixed Dangerous ‘Ex-Gay’ App from Online Store

WASHINGTON – Truth Wins Out called on Google today to end its silence and foot-dragging by finally deleting a dangerous app that stigmatizes LGBT people and pressures LGBT youth into attempting to change their sexual orientation. It is jarringly incongruent for Google to claim that it is a modern company that respects decency and diversity, while peddling anti-gay poison to gay and transgender kids.

TWO is surprised and disappointed by Google’s apparent recalcitrance, considering the organization sent Google CEO Sundar Pichai an open letter on December 27, explicitly outlining how the app was offensive, dangerous and likely violated the company’s policies. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have already exhibited corporate responsibility by eliminating the app, created by Arlington, Texas-based Living Hope Ministries.

On Jan. 2, Google sent Truth Wins Out an email that stated: “We’ve passed your request along to the appropriate team here at Google for further investigation. While you may not receive any further response from them, know that they are investigating the issues you raised in your correspondence and will take action as appropriate.” And yet, the app still remains, posing a threat to the mental health and well being of LGBT people.

“It is unconscionable that Google is still offering an online platform to an organization that seeks to marginalize and stigmatize LGBT people,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “It’s time for Google to join Apple, Microsoft and Amazon to delete this hateful and dangerous app that promotes prejudice and fosters discrimination. We are hoping this is simply an oversight from a very large company, rather than an objectionable policy decision that would warrant further action.”

By any standard, the app is noxious and discriminatory. It brazenly compares homosexuality to an addiction caused by “deep-seated wounds.” It casually trashes the rich and fulfilling lives of most LGBT people by claiming it “can help homosexuals leave their destructive lifestyles.” Living Hope repeatedly belittles transgender people by saying they suffer from “gender confusion.” The group refers to gay men as “sexually broken guys” who can “walk out of false identities” and claims, without evidence, that the “gay lifestyle” is “spiritually and physically harmful.”

The app also disrespects gay Christians by proclaiming that they “teach a false gospel” and that homosexuality “falls short of God’s best for humanity.” The group promises to walk “individuals toward God and away from bondage.”

In one video, featured on Living Hope’s website, the organization seems to suggest that being gay is the work of Satan, with the Men’s Ministry Director saying, “God blessed us with three incredible children, whom the devil intended none of them would be here.” In another video, a mother talks about how she rejected her son, “The enemy of our soul was already working on convincing my husband and I of the lie that our son was gay and born that way, and that it was our entire fault.”

Some Christian conservatives have falsely portrayed our effort to remove the app as an attempt to silence their beliefs, but nothing could be further from the truth. Living Hope is not just a set of beliefs, but represents an unethical business that profits by peddling an ineffective product that cause psychological pain to its clients, who then are blamed and shamed when they are unable to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Living Hope promotes a discredited form of therapy that is rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization.

The American Psychiatric Association says that attempts to change sexual orientation can lead to “anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior,” including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that fourteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.

In addition to the self-harm that results from such noxious “ex-gay” organizations, the message that they impart to society can also have consequences. In 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs recorded reports of 52 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ people, the highest single incident number ever recorded by NCAVP. This number represents an 86% increase in single incident reports from 2016.

The pseudoscientific advice promulgated by Living Hope, which its staff is wholly unqualified to offer, is also of grave concern. The organization incorrectly tells clients that gay people “experience detachment from their own biblical gender” and that “many who struggle with SSA (Same Sex Attraction) have issues with abandonment.” Living Hope markets products to kids such as, “Why? Understanding the Roots of Male Homosexuality and Gender Identity”, as if their untrained, ill-equipped staff is certified in dispensing medical or mental health advice to young clients.

Living Hope is also grossly misleading clients by not revealing its complete history. For years, the organization was part of the “ex-gay” umbrella group Exodus International, which had its app taken out of the Apple store in 2011 after Truth Wins Out launched a petition that gathered nearly 150,000 signatures. Two years after the app was removed, Exodus closed its doors after acknowledging that their program did not successfully transform people from gay to straight. Living Hope’s embarrassing affiliation with a now-defunct ministry is not reflected in the group’s app or website, giving the false impression that this ministry has a history of success, when it has one of notable failure.

Founded in 2006, Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that fights against right wing extremism and anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.