SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon man who gained notoriety over the past decade for supporting same-sex marriage and running a website that offers doubting Latter-day Saints a forum to chat has been kicked out of the religion.
John Dehlin announced the decision from regional church leaders Tuesday. He becomes the second high-profile church member to be excommunicated in the past year in what Mormon scholars consider to be the Utah-based faith’s way of keeping dissenters in line.
A regional church leader in North Logan told Dehlin in a letter that Mormon officials made a unanimous decision to excommunicate him for apostasy, defined by the church as repeatedly acting in clear public opposition to the faith.
While not a lifelong ban, excommunication is a rare move that amounts to the harshest punishment available for a church member.
The letter from Bryan King says Dehlin is being kicked out not because he doubted and asked questions about church doctrine, but because he made categorical statements opposing the faith that were disseminated on his website. King wrote that Dehlin’s actions have led others to leave the faith.
“You do not have the right to remain a member of the church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that church teachings are in error,” King wrote.
Dehlin lives in North Logan, a city of 9,600 about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City.
The decision comes two days after he met with church leaders in a four-hour disciplinary hearing.
Dehlin, 45, is a married father of four who has been a Latter-day Saint his entire life. He is a doctoral candidate in psychology who previously worked in the high-tech industry.
He hoped he wouldn’t be excommunicated but told church leaders he could not in good conscience stop operating his website, Mormonstories.org.
“We’re going to keep telling stories and keep providing support and community for Mormons who are unorthodox,” Dehlin said Tuesday.
The family hasn’t been attending church services since June and doesn’t plan to return. “We’re happy to use our Sundays to bond together as a family,” he said.
Dehlin said he was told last year that his website and his public support of same-sex marriage were reasons he was being accused of apostasy.
But Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that while Dehlin’s views on gay marriage go against church teachings, they were not the reasons for his discipline.