Google slammed over ‘pray away gay’ app
TECH giant Google has been branded "unconscionable" for refusing to ban a "profoundly damaging" app promoting gay conversion therapy and advising LGBTI people to destroy their photos, possessions, and other reminders of their "emotional and sexual sin".
The Living Hope Ministries app, which has already been banned by Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, was still available in Google's Australian Play Store on Thursday despite a petition with more than 40,000 signatures calling for its removal.
The issue also comes just months after a report by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre found gay conversion therapy remained "a real problem" in Australia, and caused "immense trauma and grief" to participants.
The app at the centre of the scandal was created by a Texas-based organisation that described itself as a "Christian Ministry for sexual wholeness" that offered counselling and education to Christians who "struggle with same-sex attraction".
It advises LGBTI people to "seek out a Christian therapist who has a redemptive perspective on homosexuality" to "recover" from being attracted to members of the same sex, and even to destroy their possessions.
"Accept that you will need to separate yourself from the connection to the gay lifestyle," the app says.
"Pictures, mementos, anything that connects you to your past is a propped-open door to the bondage of emotional and sexual sin."
Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft removed the app from their online stores last month after complaints about its content, but Google continued to feature the app in its Play Store.
Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, who started the petition to have the app removed from Google's app store where it has been downloaded more than 1000 times, said the multibillion-dollar company should act quickly to prevent harm.
"It is unconscionable that Google is still offering an online platform to an organisation that seeks to marginalise and stigmatise LGBT people," he said.
"It's time for Google to join Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon (and) delete this hateful and dangerous app."
More than 40,000 people have signed the Change.org petition.
Karen Price, acting chief executive of LGBTI health organisation ACON, said Google was ignoring its social responsibility as "any form of conversion practice" could have a long-lasting negative effect on victims.
"Google is powerful and pervasive," she said, "and with that power and presence comes a responsibility.
"It is disappointing to learn that Google has stepped back from its long stated corporate philosophy 'Don't be evil'.
"This is concerning given their access to data and the privileges they enjoy globally. Clearly Apple, Microsoft and Amazon recognise this responsibility, and are not peddling this ineffective and extremely damaging application.
"It is hard to overstate how vulnerable LGBTI people are to these harmful, manipulative practices which, in the stories of many survivors, have had, and continue to have, deep and long-term consequences for their health."
Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said gay conversion therapy "simply doesn't work," and vulnerable users should be "protected" from false messages about changing their sexual orientation.
"Promoting the idea that people who are same-sex attracted are broken and can be cured is profoundly damaging and just plain wrong," Ms Brown said.
Gay conversion therapy is currently only outlawed in Victoria, with a report last year finding the practice was still "pervasive" in some Australian communities.
Despite widespread criticism of its app, a spokesperson for Living Hope Ministries said claims about the app were "not descriptive of our ministry," and the organisation held "a traditional, orthodox understanding of scripture".
Google Australia did not respond to questions. Google controls what goes into their Play Store via their US-based team.
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