Brendan Eich is entitled to his personal beliefs, but steps down anyway

UPDATE: Brendan Eich  reportedly is stepping down as CEO of Mozilla  following protests over his support of a gay marriage ban in California — for the company’s sake, a spokesperson has said.


Post as it was presented on April 2

There’s a good interview with Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich on the CNET website. As you probably know, Brendan is under fire from LGBT supporters for making a $1,000 contribution to the Proposition 8 effort to ban same-sex marriage in California back in 2008. According to CNET, “more than 70,000 people have signed a petition asking for Eich to resign if he can’t unequivocally say he supports marriage equality.”

Brendan has made comments saying his company is inclusive and does not discriminate against LGBT people. He also says he separates his personal beliefs from his work as an employer. In other words, he checks his personal beliefs at the door, something most of us do.

I’m not sure what the big fuss is all about. Perhaps it’s not so much Brendan’s personal beliefs that bother people, but the fact that he contributed to a campaign that many people in California saw as a form of persecution. Still, he seems to have done so personally, not on behalf of a company.

The whole issue raises questions about separating an executive’s — or any employee’s — personal beliefs from the company’s, which is addressed in the CNET article. It is a pretty big issue in the United States these days. Exhibit A: The World Vision U.S. situation last week.

I can understand why LGBT supporters are upset. And as consumers, they are free to stop using Mozilla’s products in protest, if they wish. By threatening to do so, they are putting the same sort of pressure on the organization that some evangelicals successfully used against World Vision U.S. last week — i.e. they threatened to withdraw their financial support if World Vision U.S. did not rescind a decision to hire gay employees. The evangelicals proved that boycotts do work, and the current threat of boycotts might force a change at Mozilla.

Personally, I think employees and executives should not face discrimination for their beliefs, as long as those beliefs are legal. We should not discriminate against those who disapprove of same-sex marriage, just as they should not discriminate against LGBT people. As consumers, we don’t have to use a company’s products if we really can’t stomach the beliefs of the company executives. But to call for their resignation is stepping over the line; it is a form of persecution to try to take away a person’s livelihood because of his personal beliefs. They must be entitled to their beliefs.

Brendan Eich is entitled to his personal views — as long as he doesn’t impose them on others. He made a legal contribution in 2008 to a losing cause. It is water under the proverbial bridge. Let him believe what he wants.

Meanwhile, he has reached out to LGBT people. Listen to him today, and let the past go.

Thank Brendan and his company for the product they give us to use everyday — indeed, it is a product I am using to write this post and to share my views with you.

Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.

– Jillian

2 thoughts on “Brendan Eich is entitled to his personal beliefs, but steps down anyway

  1. I think you are being more magnanimous towards the man than he deserves really. It is quite easy to make an argument to say that he is only coming under the sort of personal pressure to interfere in his personal life, which unavoidably includes his work life, that he sought to put on the personal lives of LGBT people through his contributions to the Proposition 8 campaign.

    Frankly, as an heterosexual person I have scant sympathy for him. Put simply, it can be seen as “an eye for an eye”. Equally frankly, if the man had the foresight and wisdom and discretion that one might reasonably expect of someone in the public eye as the CEO of a public corporation, he should have been able to have anticipated that he was only going to make himself an hostage to fortune; not exactly the actions of a wise or discrete man. He has brought Mozilla into disrepute and has caused unnecessary friction and conflict within the organisation.

    It is one thing to hold a personal view that you do not approve of LGBT people wanting to marry and to express disapproval of it and another to fund opposition to it which is enabling others to take practical action against it.

    You would do better to save your sympathy for someone who actually deserves it rather than waste it on a narrow-minded man such as this. His very ability to think critically and logically is at question. It may just be an indication that he is not CEO material. I suspect he won’t last, even by normal CEO time-scales, even if he does not fall over this specific issue.


  2. This is a very emotional issue for many, and it’s hard to separate personal feelings from reasonable expectations sometimes. We have to ask ourselves if we really think that changes in laws have actually caused everyone to abandon lifelong beliefs. Of course they haven’t.

    Our society is full of people who hate those of color or a particular nationality, or gays or those of a different religion, or men, for that matter. They continue to hate or dislike or distrust; law and social custom merely forces them keep it to themselves for the most part.

    It’s been said that liberals are the most tolerant of folks; as long as you agree with them, and that’s true to a degree. We all harbor prejudices of some sort or another but as long as we treat each other as if we didn’t, no one is the wiser and we can get along peaceably. That’s what society IS.

    Mr. Eich got caught with his pants down (his own fault) and his inner feelings are known, but as long as he follows the letter of the law, can we fault him for not believing as we wish? After all, it’s OUR beliefs that are different than his, and belief is always subjective.

    America is supposed to be a nation of people with many different beliefs and backgrounds; they used to call it a ‘melting pot’ with the idea that we could all blend together and make it work. Perhaps that was a false concept, but everything is subject to context. I haven’t heard that term used for decades as individual groups vie for power, often to the displeasure of others, and our sense of community diminishes.

    Sometimes it works and a group finally receives the rights it should have, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else agrees. As long as those folks behave, it’s their right to hold their opinions and we should judge them on their actions, not their ideas. If we’re not even entitled to freedom of thought, can we truly be free?

    Of course, it doesn’t mean he’s not a pathetic Neanderthal…


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