A new app claims to offer a 60-day "gay cure" that will teach users how to finally find "freedom from the bondage of homosexuality."
The app is from Setting Captives Free, a non-denominational ministry that purports to teach the biblical principles of freedom in Jesus Christ. The free app, which has been available on Google Play since the end of March, features ways to combat substance abuse and gambling, and also teaches users how to attain "sexual purity" with a lesson called "Door of Hope."
In the "Door of Hope" section, Setting Captives Free president Mike Cleveland explains:
First, let me just say that despite what you may have heard elsewhere, you do not have a "homosexual gene," nor were you born this way with no hope of freedom. You can be set free from the bondage of homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ and the cross! If you will apply the biblical principles found here, you can walk through the Door of Hope into a new life with Christ, free from sexual impurity and self-gratification.
"Friend, make no mistake about it, God calls homosexuality wicked and evil not an 'alternative lifestyle,'" the Day 5 lesson says. "If you're not there yet in your understanding of homosexuality, you must pray for the day when you see this sin the way God sees it. I would also encourage you to begin using these biblical terms as well, as opposed to 'alternative lifestyle.'"
An AllOut.org petition published on Wednesday calls for the removal of the app from both iTunes and Google Play. More than 60,000 people have signed on, and the app has since been removed from iTunes.
"It's a 60-day course that tells gay people they are not 'born this way' and offers to help them find 'freedom from the bondage of homosexuality,'" the petition says. "These so-called treatments can cause terrible harm to lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people, or anyone forced to try to change who they are or who they love."
A 23-year-old man who says he went through the "Door of Hope" course when he was just 13 told Queerty that the app exposed him to stories of pedophilia, demonic influences and a gay subculture that worships male genitalia. The experience was "very traumatic" for him, he told the site.
The group's board of directors rejects the criticism.
"Setting Captives Free is not against or opposed to any individual or group of people," the board members told The Huffington Post in an email. "We do, however, exist to offer hope and help to those people who want to be free of whatever is troubling their hearts, minds or lives, including homosexuality. Many in the homosexual community are enjoying their lifestyle; we have no issue with them. We do not contact them, malign them or persecute them in any way, nor would we do so."
The "Door of Hope" is supposed to help those "who feel trapped by homosexuality and who want a way out," they added. "We do not offer a cure as if homosexuality were a disease. We present a Way of Life — His name is Jesus. If homosexuals are unhappy with their current way of life; they have the right to pursue happiness and change if they wish."
"Those who oppose us cannot understand because they have not experienced the transforming power of the gospel," they said.
A new survey released Thursday by the support group Beyond Ex-Gay reveals harrowing personal experiences of people who have undergone controversial "conversion therapy." Respondents reported self-hatred, depression and even attempted suicides. In one case, a person described an attempted exorcism.
More than 75 percent of survey respondents said they left the "ex-gay movement" because it didn't make them straight. More than 90 percent said they felt harmed by the experience and 80 percent said they are still negatively affected by it.