Apple has removed a controversial iPhone app from its App Store by a religious group determined to "cure" homosexuality -- after 146,000 outraged people signed a petition decrying it.
The offending app by religious group Exodus International -- which aims to "help" gay individuals through the Bible's teachings -- directly contradicts Apple's guidelines, and constitutes inappropriate hate speech, argued activists from gay-rights group Truth Wins Out.
"These closet cases put people in therapy and try to make them straight," Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, told FoxNews.com Monday. "This is a group with no accountability whatsoever," he said, "and the fact that they're focusing on youth is what disturbs us."
“We’re thrilled that Apple has removed this 'gay cure' app from the iTunes store,” said Mike Jones, Editor at Change.org, the platform used by Truth Wins Out to launch the petition. “The message Apple is sending here is clear: There is no place for ‘ex-gay therapy’ on the Apple platform.”
Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told FoxNews.com that the app had indeed been deemed offensive and removed.
"We removed the Exodus International app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people," he said.
Jeff Buchanan, senior director of church equipping and student ministries for Exodus International, confirmed that the app had been removed -- although he said he had yet to hear from Apple.
"We received notification from our developer that Apple has indeed pulled the app from the store," he told FoxNews.com. "There was no reason given as of yet. We're planning to contact them to see if we can get a response."
On Monday Buchanan said that the app is far less controversial than Besen claims.
"It's being touted as a gay cure app, and nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "We present a redemptive, biblical world view on sexuality ... it's a message of love and acceptance of those that are struggling with same-sex attraction."
Apple iPhone and iPad users can "jailbreak" a device to install apps that don't come from the iTunes store. But short of that, there is no other way to install apps on Apple gizmos.
And Apple has taken a strong moral position with regard to applications in its store. In November 2010, the company banned the Manhattan Declaration app, which urged users to take a stance against gay marriage, as well as countless apps that portray sexual content.
Though Apple seemed reluctant at first to comment, customers were far more willing to offer their perspectives: The app received hundreds of customer ratings, which were dramatically polarized, split mainly between five-star ratings and single-star ratings -- and comments in the App Store were equally polarized.
One described the program as a "shameful, deceptive app." Another compared Exodus with the Ku Klux Klan: "Why is Apple offering apps from a hate group? What next, Apple? An offering from the Klan?" the commenter asked.
Hundreds of comments supported the app as well, though far fewer than those attacking it. "It's amazing that there are so many gay apps, but one app that opposes it is under attack. Don't install it if you don't agree. It's your choice!" one commenter wrote.
"Exodus is not motivated by hate. But rather with a desire to train and educate people with a biblical perspective," wrote another.
The Exodus app's description in the App Store explained its mission simply: "With over 35 years of ministry experience, Exodus is committed to encouraging, educating, and equipping the Body of Christ to address the issue of homosexuality with grace and truth."
“This is not a question of free speech, but of stopping a virulently anti-gay organization from peddling false speech at the expense of vulnerable LGBT youth,” said John Becker, Truth Wins Out’s director of communications and development.
“We are grateful that Exodus has lost at least one platform with which to disperse its dangerous message,” he said.
Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.