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The Curious Dismissal of Brendan Eich


Arguably the most brilliant software genius in America lost his job last week because he dared to express his personal opinion and quietly made a contribution to a cause he believed was important.

Over the last few years, American society has been bombarded with calls for tolerance. Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

Tolerance is fundamental to the preservation of individual liberty. Freedom includes the right of a citizen to engage in behaviors that are unpopular so long as those behaviors don’t infringe on the rights of other citizens.

The case of Brendan Eich being forced from his position at Mozilla has increased public attention on tolerance of dissenting opinions and political views. Mr. Eich is easily the most qualified individual on earth to run a software company like Mozilla. He had a spotless record as an executive and had always demonstrated a willingness to employ and promote a diverse labor force.

So why was Eich forced to resign? He had a political opinion that was unpopular with many in the technology business. In 2008, he made a personal contribution to Proposition 8, which was the California ballot initiative that affirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Worse yet, Eich was a Christian who made no effort to hide his faith.  Was he a bigot? There’s absolutely no evidence of him mistreating anyone or even treating anyone differently because of their sexual choices, their race, or their gender.

In 2004, Arkansas passed a ballot measure that affirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Arkansas Amendment 3 was similar to California Proposition 8. His support of Proposition 8 resulted in Brendan Eich losing his job. How long will it be before such political purity tests become the norm and Arkansans who support traditional marriage or some other politically unpopular point of view are forced into unemployment lines?

Punishing our fellow citizens simply because they disagree with us and have the audacity to express a dissenting point of view epitomizes intolerance. This sort of enforced conformity is extremely dangerous to freedom of expression and borders on fascism. Those who value liberty and freedom of speech must take a strong stand against this and against similar attacks on our fundamental rights if we intend to remain free.

One comment

  1. I would have to question whether Nate Bell has the expertise to proclaim anyone “the most brilliant software genius in America.”

    While I’m not entirely convinced Eich’s political views would have made him unable to run the Mozilla Foundation, there are those who felt that he would not have the confidence of an extremely diverse group of programmers who contribute their time and professional efforts to continue the work of an open-source non-profit.

    That’s a rather different proposition than hiring a manager for a for-profit corporation with salaried employees, and I don’t think Eich’s resignation is quite the threat to civil liberties that Bell proclaims. As I recall, though, Bell rather likes the taste of his own foot, so chew away, Nate – just try not to get too much embarrassing national press for Polk County.

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