Hundreds of years have passed since Nathaniel Hawthorne penned his magnum opus, "The Scarlet Letter." Set in the 17th Century and viewed through the prism of puritanical mores, the adulterous heroine of the novel was condemned to wear a badge of shame in the form of the "letter A" sewn on a swatch of scarlet cloth.
Flash forward to the 21st Century, and a similar scenario of persecution is being played out today in the digital age, where the 'letter A' might be better applied to "Apple" versus "adultery."
Over the course of the last four months two controversial iPhone apps have hit the market only to be protested harshly by two opposing groups - Christians versus Gays! Never really seeing eye-to-eye over the years, both factions have come to blows over what should and should not be found on their number one mobile device. This dilemma pits the right of speech against offensive behavior. However Apple isn't always clear as to what side of the fence they sit on.
While Steve Jobs' Apple products are often described as 'instruments of the devine' Christians and their brethren seem to expect these 'holy devices' to walk the 'straight and narrow' and in accordance with their doctrine. So when a Christian app opposing gay marriage (titled the 'Manhattan Declaration') was pulled from Apple's iTunes app store, Christian leaders were outraged.
Apple's rationale for removing the app was noted in their public response to this controversy: "We moved the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."
Whether or not the Christian Right believes Apple's position is unfair or not is not the issue here. What is the issue is why Apple's position on 'gay rights' took an abrupt about-face just four short months later?
This past week, Exodus International, a self-described "umbrella group for ex-gay organization" has just released an iPhone app that according to their Web site is "designed to be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students and ministry leaders" to "cure" gays of their homosexuality.
The organization and the app claims to offer "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ" and uses scare tactics, misinformation, stereotypes and distortions of LGBT lifestyle to recruit clients. Exodus's message supports the so-called "reparative therapy" to "change" the sexual orientation of their clients, despite the fact this remedy has been rejected by the American Psychological Association.
So when 100,000 folks signed a petition initiated by Truth Wins Out (TWO) on Change.org to have the app yanked from the iTunes Store, the protesters were confident that Apple would comply based on their previous Manhattan Declaration position. Quite the contrary. The Exodus International was not only found to contain "no objectionable content," it was given a 4+ rating by the Big A.
"If Apple does not respond, we will take steps to ensure that Apple meets with the victims of ex-gay ministries and learns how their lives were destroyed," TWO executive director Wayne Besen said. "It is astounding that Apple would allow an app from an organization that promotes gay exorcisms, demonizes LGBT people, and is rejected by every respected mental-health association in America."
So I award Apple, the 21st Century's 'Scarlet Letter' for its inability to take a consistent stand. Mr. Jobs, you can't be all things to all people, particularly when you take a stance one day, and counter it the next. Oddly enough, before the Manhattan Declaration's app was removed from Apple's iTunes Store it also carried a 4+ rating - and at the time it only took 7,000 people to sign a petition to prompt its removal.
So, let's step it up Mr. Jobs, and like Nathaniel Hawthorne's heroine Hester Prynne, let's turn that badge of shame into a badge of honor!
UPDATE: Cult of Mac - March 22- It looks like APPLE has responded to the outcry over the app by removing it from iTunes. The Blogosphere won out. Bravo, Apple!!!