According to Rep. Frank Wolf, speaking earlier today on the House floor, “regardless of your views on marriage, any American who values the 1st Amendment should be deeply troubled that [former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich] was essentially driven from his job because of his personal beliefs…about traditional marriage.” In Wolf’s view, “the chilling effect it will have on the broader issues of free speech cannot be overstated.” Wolf adds that “Amurica” (as he weirdly pronounces it) has “never been defined by mob rule,” and supposedly “what happened last week was not debate, it was stifling of debate…the silencing of dissent…the compromising of two of our nation’s most cherished principles – freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” And, Wolf concludes, “the implications are vast and deeply troubling.”
Except that this is mostly wild hyperbole and hysterics, two things which Frank Wolf has specialized in over the years, and factually questionable at best. In reality, the resignation of (now former) Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich does NOT have “vast” implications for “Amurica,” nor does it have anything whatsoever to do with the 1st Amendment. For starters, the 1st Amendment deals with the government, not the private sector, stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.”
Let’s repeat: the 1st Amendment has to do with Congress. What the 1st Amendment does NOT have anything to do with is such things as specifying that a private company must employ someone it doesn’t want to employ. You’d think a Republican, if anyone, would appreciate that. Guess not. Of course, there are laws – and rightfully so! – against companies firing people because of their religion, race, ethnicity, etc. But that’s not what the 1st Amendment talks about. Personally, I don’t believe that Mozilla should have fired Eich based on his religious beliefs. Fortunately, that isn’t what happened. Instead, as the New Yorker explains, what unfolded was an “uprising within the Mozilla community: a public petition was circulated demanding that he step down, the dating site OkCupid recommended that its customers stop using Firefox, and some Mozilla employees (though far from all of them) called for his resignation.” The problem, in the end, wasn’t “that he took a political stance,” but that ” Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology.” But it’s even more than that; it’s about the potential future of Mozilla.
Mozilla is not like most companies. It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, and is just one part of the broader Mozilla community, which includes thousands of open-source software developers and other volunteers around the world. These people still do much of the work behind Mozilla’s products-contributing code, technical support, design improvements, and so on. This means that Mozilla depends on the goodwill of its supporters more than most corporations do; it relies on their willingness to donate their services in pursuit of the broader Mozilla project, which is all about keeping the Web transparent and accessible. If it alienates them, Mozilla’s entire mission will be at risk.
So, there you have it: Mozilla made a business decision (to the extent it pressured Eich out, which is actually hard to determine exactly), one presumably that was based on its (or its community’s) perception of its/their own self interest. Whatever the case may be, the decisions had absolutely NOTHING to do with the government, except insofar as its former CEO had supported efforts to have the government discriminating against one group of Americans and depriving them of their rights to equal protection under the…yes, Constitution! Ironic, ain’t it? Also amazing that Frank Wolf, after all these years in public life, still doesn’t get it. He can’t retire soon enough.