Last week, Mozilla, the foundation and company best known for the web browser Firefox, made co-founder Brendan Eich the company’s chief executive officer. Mozilla quickly faced an internal storm of protest from employees along with a boycott of the Firefox browser organized by the dating site OkCupid. At issue is the fact that Eich made a $1000 donation to California’s Proposition 8 (the ballot initiative to restrict marriage to the traditional definition). Though he has pledged his commitment to make Mozilla “a place of equality and welcome for all,” those calling for his resignation contend that Eich’s support of the 2008 law disqualifies him for the position.
I find their claim a very silly example of discrimination masquerading as tolerance. But at the same time, I believe this protest is how a struggle over corporate values should play out. In addition to the employees who have criticized Eich’s appointment and the three board members who have resigned in protest, several self-identified LGBTQ employees have spoken up to defend Eich, not because they agree with his views on marriage, but because they believe he is fit to lead with the sort of openness Mozilla has always known.
If the San Francisco tech culture finds Eich’s views so heinous that no one will work for him, the company will fail. Or, should conservative America rally around Eich’s right to free speech, as they have around Dan Cathy and Phil Robertson, Firefox might surpass the other browsers and come out stronger than before.
My point is that the First Amendment will not protect Brendan Eich from bullying or reprisal for his views. Rather, it allows him to continue to express those views, whether with his words or his checkbook, free from government interference.
This is the freedom the Green family of Hobby Lobby is owed. They should be allowed to express their belief that abortifacient contraceptives are wrong by choosing not to pay for them. If their employees find that intolerable, they will go to work at Hancock’s. If crafters find the Greens’ views revolting, they will shop at Michael’s.
As exasperating as it is to see self-professed open-minded, tolerant people try to propel out of their orbit anyone they judge intolerant, it is still legal and constitutional. And, as of this writing, I’m thankful to say that it is still legal for those of us who find McCarthyism distasteful to express that view with our words and our buying power.
Image by Timothy Moenk via Flickr