Mozilla, Brendan Eich, and the HHS Mandates

Last week Brendan Eich was forced to step down as CEO of Mozilla Corporation because of complaints that, among other things, he had given a contribution to support Proposition 8–the amendment to the California Constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  These developments have occasioned a debated about whether it was a good or bad thing that Eich had to resign.

One view has it that the episode illustrates a disturbing illiberality and vengefulness on the part of some proponents of same-sex marriage.  This is the view of many conservatives, but also of liberal (and gay) blogger Andrew Sullivan.

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The opposite view–the extreme left view–defends the forcing out of Eich on the grounds that his views are evil and retrograde and people like him should not be in high status positions.  People who make this argument are doing everything they can to confirm the critique made by the critics mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I am most interested in a middle position I have seen defended.  This view holds that it was proper to seek Eich’s removal just because his views don’t fit with the values of the Mozilla community.  According to this perspective, the Mozilla Corporation does not exist only to make money but to embody certain values, and since many thought Eich did not share those values, they could properly ask him to leave.

I don’t know enough about Mozilla to know whether this argument is fully persuasive, but what really interests me in it is the principle it presupposes.  It presupposes that a corporation might have a kind of ethical identity, derived from the ethical intentions of the people who constitute it.

That makes a lot of sense to me.  A corporation is not just an abstraction but is made up of human individuals who have decided to cooperate with a view to some common good.  Here’s the point: If this is true of Mozilla, wouldn’t it also be true, say, of Catholic hospitals and universities, which are set up not just to provide health care or education, but to do so according to Catholic standards?  And if it is true, wouldn’t these institutions have a point in saying that they have an interest in not providing forms of health care coverage that they find immoral?

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Categories:Culture Religious Liberty

9 thoughts on “Mozilla, Brendan Eich, and the HHS Mandates

  1. Rich says:

    And just who would be the wolves, California Crusader? That choice of word is unfortunate.

  2. Michael says:

    Food for thought posted on the Firefox feedback page: If this company doesn’t care about the privacy of their CEO’s financial info., do you think they care about yours?

  3. JL says:

    I heard there was a precedent set back in the Clinton Administration that for profit organisations/corporate entities are considered as “people” when it comes to the Bill of Rights i.e. freedom of speech, why doesnt it pertain to the others ? That’s where HobbyLobby comes into play.

  4. pchristle says:

    What you say is true, of course, but when have liberals/progressives ever been interested in facts and truth?

  5. GREG SMITH says:

    Dear Carson,

    I don’t believe Ecih should have been removed. He simply exercised his constitutional right to contribute to a political campaign apparently, at that level of management, he has no recourse under law and Mozilla had the “right” to do what it did. . However he sounds sincere when he says hell support Mozilla’s inclusiveness policies, including those related to marriage equality and who knows, his opinion may change in the future

    In this respect, Mozilla is in the same situation as many Catholic institutions which have fired people in a national atmosphere of fear mongering and hysteria. They “may” terminate employment for people having unpopular political or social opinions. The question is should they?
    A woman got fired from a Catholic school where my daughter taught for the “contractual violation” of honestly answering a student’s question about her intention to vote on Prop 8. In a high profile case, another of our teachers got let go because her mother’s obituary included partners her clearly female name in (…..) after hers among the survivors.
    How far do we want to go with this? If a math professor at Benedictine of Franciscan were to argue at a faculty cocktail party that he doesn’t believe in real presence, ought he be subject to discipline?
    IMHO the American bishops signing up for the Culture Wars back about 2004 was a colossal mistake. Ten years later, most Americans and most American Catholics support gay marriage. Eighteen (or is it more, I’ve lost count) states have marriage equality with more on the way. We, and our bishops don’t preach hate, but we’ve allowed ourselves to be identified with those who do (See the blog “California Catholic Daily for an example of how this has infected some Catholics thinking) Now, when we reach out to lapsed Catholics about returning to the Church in the new evangelization, step one is to convince them that our parish isn’t “all culture war, all the time.” so we can get on to the pastor’s life changing homalies.

    On the issue of gay marriage we need to move on.

    1. jimbob says:

      Very interesting comments, Greg. The CEO is the public face of an entity and as such, there is a requirement for shared values between the CEO and the corporation. The likes of Matt Barber want to say that Eich has been lynched by an out of control gay mob. But according to the Wall Street Journal, Mozilla had a contract with Google that was due for renewal and there was concern Google, a very pro-equality organization with the 2nd largest market capitalization of US corporates – Apple is largest – would not renew the contract if Eich were CEO. Money talks. Additionally, several board members resigned in the wake of Eich’s appointment although to be fair, some of them were not necessarily resigning in reaction to the appointment but rather had indicated they would resign once the CEO search was completed. I think many readers here bothered by Eich’s dismissal have no qualms with Catholic schools firing teachers who enter into same sex marriages. What about Matthew Barrett, the food services manager whose employment contract was rescinded recently from a Catholic girls prep school because he listed his same sex partner as emergency contact? Was he lynched or do most readers here applaud the decision to rescind his contract. Let’s discuss World Vision recent decision regarding gay employees.

    2. California Crusader says:

      So the bishops are just supposed to hand over their croziers, relinquish their roles as shepherds and allow the wolves to have their way with the flock?

      1. GREG SMITH says:

        Somehow I don’t see Mrs. Windsor who just wanted her $360,000 back from the IRS as a wolf out to get the sheep.

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