Last week, Lavender magazine outed anti-gay Minneapolis pastor Tom Brock as a gay man. The magazine did it by going undercover at a "confidential [12-step] meeting of gay men 'struggling with chastity.'" The ends don't justify the means.
The Lavender reporter, John Townsend, writes:
My first encounter with Brock was at a confidential meeting of gay men "struggling with chastity" at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in St. Anthony, a suburb northeast of Minneapolis. It's not a Lutheran church, but rather a Catholic one. This group is sponsored by Faith in Action (FIA), Minnesota's official arm of the global Catholic gay-chastity-maintenance organization called Courage. It models itself after the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He then proceeds to spill detail upon detail of the meeting he attended, and uses Brock's attendance as the basis of his gotcha story.
Who's shamed here? Tom Brock, superficially. But reporter John Townsend and his editors, even more. Twelve step meetings—whether for alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, sex addicts, or, yes, "gay men struggling with chastity"—are based on anonymity. They don't work if the participants think that a reporter could spill their secrets. And since these meetings save lives, their anonymity should be honored by the press. Just as a magazine wouldn't print troop movements that would get soldiers killed, or print the names of confidential police informants that might get them assassinated, they shouldn't presume to have the right to fuck with another person's recovery.
You want to out a secretly gay homophobic pastor? Fine. Play fair. You can't break into his house at night to steal his porn stash, or wiretap his workplace in secret, or steal his psychiatrist's notes. Nor can you go "undercover" at a 12-step meeting. It's not ethical. It's more than a slippery slope—it's an invitation to total carnage in the lives of some of our nation's most vulnerable people.
Just ask all the journalists you'll find at 12-step meetings.