The Dentist and His Assistant

Earlier this year an Iowa dentist won the legal backing of the Iowa Supreme Court with regards to an employee firing. What made this case notable for our thinking was the reason that the dentist fired the employee. The dentist, James Knight, terminated his dental assistant, Melissa Nelson, for fear that he might eventually commit adultery with her.

I almost don’t know where to begin. Let me begin by noting that my comments are not intended to deal with the legality of the matter. This blog is about thinking as a Christian. Some actions may be legal without being wise.

While we should flee youthful lusts, this action misses the nature of sin. Read what James writes on this subject,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
(James 1:14-15 ESV)

The dentist and his wife came to the conclusion to fire Nelson. It seems a little presumptuous to assume that the good dentist would be irresistible to Ms. Nelson.

According to reports the couple considered her to be attractive. Nothing is said about Ms. Nelson having major surgery to change her looks. So we must assume that she was attractive when she was hired.

It is interesting that the dentist hired another female after firing Ms. Nelson. Did he advertise for an “unattractive assistant”? What must the new employee think?

Since many workplace adulteries involve emotional bonds as much or more than physical ones, what is to prevent the new assistant from becoming too nice?

The affirmation of some fine Christian leaders is discouraging.

The dentist made the right choice in fighting to save his marriage. But we should take this as a cautionary tale. By establishing boundaries at work early on, the situation would not have gotten as far, and that assistant would not have lost her job.”
Gary Smalley, executive director of marriage and family formation, Focus on the Family

(From Should an Iowa Dentist Have Fired his Attractive Assistant? in Christianity Today.)

Thankfully, Russell Moore weighs in with a better response,

Jesus said ‘If your eye offend you, gouge it out,’ not ‘If you find your neighbor’s eyes to be too sexy, gouge them out.’ Every person will face temptations. Unless the assistant were pressing for a relationship, he should have found other means to keep his integrity intact.”
Russell D. Moore, dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

(From the same article quoted above.)

The attorney for Dr. Knight also was amiss with his comments.

(The ruling was) … a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

Christian Who Fired Attractive Assistant to Prevent Adultery Did Not Discriminate, Court Says in Christianity Today.)

I doubt that this ruling was a victory for the value of Melissa Nelson’s family.

It would seem that any woman who considers herself attractive should avoid using Dr. Knight as her dentist. How could he resist lusting after his patients?

I have a niece who is an attractive dental assistant. I can only imagine how angry our family would be if her boss took the same route as Dr. Knight.

What do you think?