Apple pulls religious app accused of portraying homosexuality as 'sickness' and a 'sin'

"All we do is teach a very orthodox view of biblical truth," said Ricky Chelette, executive director of Living Hope Ministries.

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By Janelle Griffith

Apple has removed from its online store a religious app accused of falsely portraying being gay as an "addiction," "sickness," and "sin" after a national gay-rights organization petitioned to have it pulled.

Truth Wins Out, which says it fights “anti-gay religious extremism,” launched a petition Thursday urging Apple to remove the app by Living Hope Ministries, a nonprofit that says it serves “those who are seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Living Hope Ministries developed its app three years ago, according to its executive director Ricky Chelette. He said the group is a "discipleship ministry" and "very much like a church."

"We help people understand who they are in Christ," Chelette told NBC News on Sunday. "We only help those individuals who are seeking us."

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Truth Wins Out alleged in its petition that the app sought for LGBT youth "to change from gay-to-straight through prayer and therapy."

The petition had 356 supporters. Truth Wins Out said it will seek to have the Living Hope Ministries app removed from other platforms that still host it.

The gay-rights advocacy group thanked Apple and its CEO Tim Cook in a statement Friday.

“We thank Apple for exemplifying corporate responsibility and taking swift action to remove a dangerous app that stigmatizes and demeans LGBT people,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Ex-gay programs are consumer fraud and cause significant harm to the people they purport to help.”

Chelette said he was not informed in advance that Apple would remove the app, and he plans to challenge that decision.

"I think it’s unfortunate that the advocacy group doesn’t know what we do and is assuming that we’re some hate organization. We are not," Chelette said. "We love gay-identified individuals."

He also said the ministry does not believe its message promotes conversion therapy.

"We try to help folks who are conflicted with their faith and feelings," he said, adding that he himself was attracted to men in the 1980s and had an experience with Christ that transformed his life. "We have been doing that for a very long time."

Apple did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.