The resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich following the public outcry over the recent revelation of his 2008 donation in support of same-sex marriage ban Proposition 8 has sparked a new battle when it comes to expressing one’s beliefs.
On Tuesday, Christian lobbying group Faith Driven Consumer launched a web-based campaign called #Openzilla, to counteract what the group calls a virtual “glass ceiling for a faith-driven worldview.”
Faith Driven Consumer founder Chris Stone says his organization advocates for a minority demographic — what he says is the 15 percent of the American population self-identifying as “faith driven” Christians, meaning those whose “faith has a significant enough impact to influence their choices in the marketplace, voting, and entertainment.”
That amounts to about 46 million people spending an average $1.75 trillion a year, according to Stone.
To make sure Christian consumers are spending their money with companies that support their beliefs, Faith Driven Consumer charts companies that are “leaning toward a biblical world view” based on corporate philanthropy to Christian groups, pro-life values, and even whether the company has received a low score on the Human Rights Campaign Equality Index — meaning if the company is low on gay rights, they must be big on the Bible.
The Events at Mozilla
The National Review posted a biting rebuttal of the official Mozilla statement on Eich insinuating that the company fired Eich “as soon as he expressed any variance from the liberal orthodoxy that is the only acceptable view of any civilized individual.”
Even GLAAD award-nominated gay blogger Andrew Sullivan (also a practicing Roman Catholic and self-described conservative) railed against what he called ‘The Hounding of a Heretic’.
Mozilla claims they didn’t pressure Eich to resign, and in fact tried to convince him to stay “in another role.”
“Mozilla has a long history of gathering people with a wide diversity of political and religious beliefs to work on the project,” the company has publicly stated in response to the controversy.
The company also posted a statement on its official blog that clarifies Mozilla’s support of equality and inclusion for LGBT people: “Mozilla’s mission is to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just. This is why BOTH Mozilla Corporation and Mozilla Foundation support equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples. No matter who you are or who you love, everyone deserves the same rights and to be treated equally.”
But that hasn’t convinced Faith Driven Consumer from accusing Mozilla of “intolerance towards people with a biblical view of marriage.”
When “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson was suspended from A&E Networks in December 2013 after comparing homosexuality to bestiality in GQ, Faith Driven Consumer launched the #IStandWithPhil campaign that was arguably a major force behind the networks’ decision to suspend Robertson from the popular reality show.
The network later released a statement saying they’d decided to continue Robertson’s contract after “consulting with numerous advocacy groups.”
Stone told VICE News the Mozilla and Duck Dynasty cases have striking similarities.
“We encountered this several times with the #IStandWithPhil campaign,” Stone said. “People said ‘it’s OK to have an opinion, as long as you don’t express that opinion.’ If you stifle people’s ability to express their opinions, we’re violating the foundations of freedom of expression in our country.”
Progressive talk show host David Pakman spoke to VICE News on behalf of the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD and said that most of the questions raised by Faith Driven Consumers about Mozilla are invalid.
“These are hypothetical questions in a fantasy world where there’s no government rules in place,” Pakman said.
“The questions their campaign asks assume that there are absolutely no established laws around employment and personal beliefs. Faith-driven employees can’t be discriminated against for being religious,” said Pakman.
He noted that Eich’s critics only spoke up once the longtime employee was promoted to CEO this March, making the backlash an issue of company representation more than anything.
“I guarantee there are employees at Mozilla who are anti-gay. But in the marketplace of ideas, they’re not prominent enough for it to matter,” Pakman said.
A number of articles have decried Eich’s hounding as a violation of free speech.
Since Eich’s $1,000 donation to a proposed same-sex marriage ban was made privately six years before he became CEO, the reaction raised questions about whether an employee’s political or religious beliefs can fairly be said to reflect on the company they work for.
Pakman says that’s a non-issue.
“First of all, the free speech argument is irrelevant,” Pakman said. “Brendan Eich was allowed to say whatever he wanted, he was allowed to make any political donation he wanted.”
“This was a business decision that was made. What you say and what you donate to- are part of the fair market evaluation of people as employees,” said Pakman. “Being anti-gay is increasingly unpopular — even 61 percent of young Republicans are OK with gay marriage. Brendan Eich’s view has become an increasing minority view.”
Stone worries that the scales of justice are tipping away from Christians.
“We are finding that political correctness in America protects women, protects those in the LGBT community, protects Muslims, protect Jews, but that same criteria does not protect Christian faith-driven Americans,” Stone said.
As it stands, employment law protects people from being fired for their religious beliefs. And free speech is still the constitutional right of every American citizen.
But as both sides of the Mozilla controversy have learned over the past week, you can believe and say whatever you want — it doesn’t mean people will agree with you.