Update, March 29, 2019 (12:26PM EST): In a statement sent to CNBC earlier today, Google said it removed the Living Hope Ministries app from the Google Play Store.
Google had the following to say in regards to the app removal:
After consulting with outside advocacy groups, reviewing our policies, and making sure we had a thorough understanding of the app and its relation to conversion therapy, we’ve decided to remove it from the Play Store, consistent with other app stores.
The removal comes after Google faced pressure from other groups. Civil rights group Human Rights Campaign dropped Google from its annual Corporate Equality Index, which looks at how well companies perform when it comes to supporting LGBT employees.
A Change.org petition garnered a little over 140,000 signatures prior to Google’s announcement.
Original article, January 16, 2019 (11:44AM EST): A controversial mobile application used as a gay conversion therapy tool was recently removed from the Apple App Store and the Amazon App Store. However, the app is still active on the Google Play Store, and that isn’t sitting well with the activist group that pushed for the app’s removal.
The Living Hope Ministries app is a collection of audio and video recordings of Bible verses, devotionals, and other Christian teachings. However, the Living Hope Ministries establishment is primarily focused on gay conversion therapy, i.e. trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.
LGBT rights organization Truth Wins Out started petitions to get the app removed from the various online stores. The petitions helped bring down the app from Apple’s and Amazon’s platforms, according to Newsweek. However, the Play Store listing is still active as of publishing this article.
Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, said that Living Hope Ministries is “trying to prey on LGBT youth with a product that is fraudulent. Nobody can change from gay to straight. They’re selling snake oil.”
According to multiple studies from prestigious organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and countless universities around the world, homosexuality is not a mental disorder and there is no way to “convert” a person from gay to straight. Furthermore, gay conversion therapy is often described as cruel and linked with substance abuse and suicide.
There is no credible scientific evidence to support homosexuality is a mental disorder, nor that it can be 'cured'.
Ricky Chelette, the executive director of Living Hope Ministries, defends the application. “I assume that folks who are gay-identified and happy are not looking at our app to begin with,” he said. “There are tons of pro-gay apps. We love gay-identified people, we’re simply here to help those who don’t want to be gay.”
Chelette points out that the app explicitly informs users that the advice contained therein is not a replacement for medical care.
Living Hope Ministries describes itself as “a non-profit, non-denominational, 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to proclaim God’s truth as we journey with those who are seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Google has yet to release a statement on the matter.