In writing about John Dehlin, I’ve often been impressed by his strategic thinking, his planning, his craft, his execution of complex plans. He is by all means an impressive human being, with tremendous (if somewhat misspent) potential that I hope he will ultimately use for good, but today I am feeling something more akin to disgust. I’ve been reading over the transcript that he released on Tuesday, 10 February, 2015, of his conversation with his Stake President. I predicted prior his mentioning that he had done so that he had taped the whole thing and would release a complete transcript and ultimately a recording for those keeping track of my psychic friends score. Anyway, I’ve been looking over the transcript, and something that caught my attention was this:
Bryan King: We were both in the OR today and we were passing and mike mentioned to me and said will you meet with John and his wife this evening and I said yes, that’s true, I do. And he, he mentioned, the… an observation—the toll this has taken on your family. And how he has seen that weight and, and I—and I stopped to reflect for a minute and I just briefly shared with Mike that, that I equally have shared some of that… responsibility and some of those experiences—while mine my not have been as open and as public as yours; ummm… mine come in emails, messages left on the answering machines at work, that have not always been very supportive.
John Dehlin: I’ve never given your information to anybody.
Bryan King: It’s easy to find out. And it’s easy to—
John Dehlin: I’ve never encouraged anyone to contact you.
Bryan King: And I don’t believe you have. I don’t believe in any respect that you have
John Dehlin: I’m sorry if you’ve received any…
Bryan King: And I full well knew as we embarked down this path that that would be something that would happen. Ummm, it’s unfortunate because my family’s been affected just as your family’s been affected; in ways that have extended even beyond the little area in which we live. The internet is a world-‐wide tool that basically exists and can affect people all over the world. So I just want you to know that since we last met that there has not been a day go by on more than one occasion that I haven’t reflected upon our association and the decisions that may be before us and what we do. So I have taken this with every, every measure of sincerity.
Apparently, President King was receiving harassment from various corners on a daily-or-more basis. John indicates that he has not at any time disseminated the Stake President’s information, and appropriately expresses his condolences. The Stake President then talks about how rather than become bitter about the abuse he’s receiving from John’s followers he has used it as an opportunity to deeply consider the matter that is before them. If anything that is a lovely example of all things turning to good for those who love and serve God, and the way that love can transform even hateful actions into something productive.
It is also seems clear in this passage that John knows that it would be wrong to share the Stake President’s information or encourage people to contact him or subject him to abuse. All of which makes what happens subsequently all the more despicable. Several commenters have mentioned to me that an early version of the press release post on Mormon Stories, posted January 15, 2015 contained a link to the Stake President’s healthgrades account, which is a service that allows people to anonymously rate physicians. I found this puzzling, and perhaps even apocryphal, but looking where they pointed it me, it was also, regrettably, absolutely true. If you want to see just go to the link in the middle of this paragraph and exam the embedded link in Bryan King’s name. I would ask you to please not attempt to manipulate it in any way. Opposing lies do not counterbalance each other, and rating a business that you have not patronized is dishonest regardless of which way you are voting.
Let’s talk about why this is a problem. We have a mental health professional, John Dehlin, who is providing his followers with the information, linked to Bryan King’s name, where many of them would click even before they knew where they were going out of sheer curiosity, and would then find themselves confronted with an opportunity to retaliate for any bad feelings they may have toward the Church, the concept of Church discipline, their feelings of frustration with a faith crisis, or whatever else might be on their minds. Dehlin knows that many of them have been harassing his Stake President anyway—Dehlin has already expressed his condolences for it—so making his information available is sufficient to ensure that they will, based on nothing more than the provision of the link, damage his Stake President’s reputation, not as a counselor or theologian or anything related to the disciplinary action, but as a medical professional. It appears that Dehlin is using the information that he has learned from his interaction with his Stake President (that King is being harassed already and that his family is suffering with him) to deliberately hurt him in a way to which he knows King is vulnerable.
Is it ethical to encourage your followers to harass someone by making false reports about their work? This isn’t the sort of thing that happens by accident. It seems unlikely that Dehlin’s computer just threw a link to Bryan King’s healthgrades account into Dehlin’s document which he was preparing for public release, so I don’t know how to read this except as a deliberate attempt to harass and economically harm John’s Stake President. I am not sure it’s okay for a mental health professional to bully another person this way. I’m frankly disappointed in what he’s done here because at a certain point these sorts of activities begin to damage his ability to be trusted by others not to mistreat those with whom he interacts in profoundly inappropriate ways.
[Note/edit: If anyone knows John and can get his side of the story on this, and he is willing to tell us what happened I’m all for hearing both sides.]
[Note/edit: I received a note indicating that John Dehlin has responded giving his take on what happened, I include it below]
John Dehlin For the record, in the fog of media attention, reporters kept asking me how to get a hold of President King, and so I wanted to include his contact info in the press release in some sort of way such that they could get a hold of him if they needed to. I had zero intent of negatively affecting his job. I googled his name, and found the quickest link that I could find. Looking back, it was a dumb move. But as soon as someone alerted me to this fact, I took it down. I have never had any intent of harming President King’s livelihood.
John’s claim that he googled the name is reasonable. Although positioning off Google results varies from person to person, when I google the Stake President’s name it was one of the top two results. He also claims that the media kept asking how to get a hold of President King. We know that John and President King have been in contact via email, and if he wanted to get the Stake President’s phone number: there’s an app for that, but I respect him not using it for business purposes since that is not its intent. However, the first listing on the Google search as I saw it contained a business listing with a phone number, which seems like a more logical choice than a healthgrades account. Additionally, he mentions confusion related to a fog of media attention, which would suggest that the decision was made hastily at some point after the initial release of information to the media. It is not unreasonable that he would have been in ongoing contact with the media, and that they would have made such a request at some point in the process. However, at least in terms of what he has posted on the Mormon Stories site, the initial post contains the link (according to the Wayback Machine). If there was an earlier version that did not contain it, it is not in evidence. However, the story is plausible if he has been crafting his press release after conversing with several members of the press. The next 9 captures also include the link:
(These are according to whichever time scheme the Wayback Machine uses, so not Utah time)
20:10:00 January 15, 2015
23:02:02 January 15, 2015
1:26:31 January 16, 2015
2:59:40 January 16, 2015
7:13:53 January 16, 2015
10:00:00 January 16, 2015
12:32:49 January 16, 2015
16:15:49 January 16, 2015
9:34:00 January 17, 2015
16:15:25 January 17, 2015
The correction is finally made at
18:12:09 January 17, 2015
It is thus removed between 1.83 and 1.91 days after it initially appeared. These were likely the two days with the largest traffic as well. If, as he has stated it was at this point that someone notified him of it, it took a surprisingly long time for anyone to notice that bothered to tell him.
This, at the least, represents a serious lapse in judgement. Was it something more? Maybe, but caution is warranted in interpreting the data.
(I’ll keep you posted if any further information becomes available.)