Try to imagine yourself five years from now, or better yet, tomorrow. You open up your web browser and surprisingly stumble upon a titbit of news: the new principal of the Catholic school next door is a publicly proclaimed homosexual. He is “married” and living with his partner. Soon, a protest ensues, tweets are tweeted and posts are posted. The principal is politely asked to step down. The school draws up a delicate statement saying something along the lines: “We didn’t stay true to ourselves.”

If you are like me, however, this scene seems to be ever more far-fetched; few schools would take the risk. It resembles too much a textbook case of what gay marriage supporters have taught society to consider intolerant and bigoted persecution. Upon the horizon a fleet of cameraman would shortly appear. The internet connection would slow due to the flood of tweets and blog posts condemning the event. Finally a few emails would find their way to the mailboxes, announcing the imminent arrival of some of the best lawyers in the country.

Let’s now take a step back into our present time and look a case that has caused quite a stir in Silicon Valley. A great scandal has take place. What is exactly scandalous depends on your point of view.

ff3The uproar began to sound with the appointment of Brendan Eich to the role of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. Co-founder of Mozilla and a lofty figure in the tech and internet world, Mr. Eich is known for his almost continuous sixteen years of work at Mozilla and above all, his contributions to JavaScript, an important programming language. Evidently no one disputes the idea that Mr. Eich is extremely well qualified for the position.

Yet that’s not the problem. The mishap was that he committed the rather “heretical” act of privately donating $1,000 in support of the 2008 California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage.

ff1His decision to privately manifest his beliefs in advocacy for the traditional definition of marriage was made public courtesy of William Saletan in the Los Angeles Times. A downloadable spreadsheet was made available with the names of the donors along with a rather convenient search engine.

In the wake of his appointment, not few members of the Mozilla staff protested and soon a larger wave of protests appeared thanks to the actions of an online dating site called CupidOk. Upon entry into the website, a message popped up encouraging members to uninstall Firefox, the browser developed by Mozilla. Credo Mobile, a wireless company that bills itself as progressive, also gathered more than 50,000 signatures calling for him to resign.

ff2Soon after, Mozilla announced that Mr. Eich had indeed decided to resign of his own initiative. Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s executive chairwoman, announced in a blog post that Mozilla “prides itself on being held to a different standard” and repented of the appointment because “we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.”

All in all, the event has caused quite a firestorm amongst interest parties on both sides of the issue. “Plenty of folk have wondered out loud why Mr. Eich’s views on gay marriage had anything to do with his ability to lead an organization that makes software. ”(“Exit Mr Eich” 2014) Isn’t this another case of the inquisitional forces of “tolerance” gone amok? Isn’t there something ironically contradictory in the paladins of equality and freedom of speech suppressing a man for doing the same?

Both the Economist and the New York Time’s explained the conundrum by pointing to the particular nature of the Mozilla company.

“… Mozilla is a bizarre beast in the world of tech: part business and part internet missionary.” – Economist (“Exit Mr Eich” 2014)

“Mozilla is not a normal company. It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope of promoting the development of the Internet as a public resource. ” – New York Times (“Why Mozilla’s Chief Had to Resign” 2014)

The basic argument is remarkably logical: Mozilla is a corporation with a cause. Mr. Eich didn’t support or represent the cause, thus he was asked to resign.

That said, one minor suspicion could pop into one’s mind: isn’t that the same logic that every Catholic institution has put forward in defence of similar decisions? Can someone please explain to me the difference between the two? Why are our actions held as primitively bigoted while those of the gay-marriage lobby are hailed as a victorious crusade? Do we too not have the right of an “activist organization” to operate as we see fit according to our mission?

Their answer is a flat “No.” Why? Because none of those who made this mess care about the company being an “activist organization”; what they care about is gay-marriage. Mozilla’s activist status is a pretext. And, frankly, the issue of gay-marriage is no longer one up for dispute. It has been erased from the “free speech” topic section. Gay marriage is no longer merely a taboo subject; it has become morally wrong, morally degenerate to oppose it. And, with regards to this issue, you do not have the right to think differently. Hanging in the balance is not only freedom of speech, but freedom of conscience, freedom to think differently.

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This idea is not one to be taken lightly. For, in their eyes, a word-wide moral purification is at hand, something analogous to the abolition of slavery. This was made perfectly clear in a text directed to Mr. Eich from Owen Thomas, managing editor of Valleywag, that was quoted recently by First Things. It has been said to be “one of the most widely-shared and lauded of the countless statements issued in response to the appointment.” The text is worth reading carefully.

owen_thomas_03242010You’ve already said that you won’t bring any personal exclusionary beliefs to the workplace. But your actions in 2008 were not personal or private: They were public acts of speech, for which your constituents are rightly holding you accountable now. You did not merely express a personal view on same-sex marriage; you attempted to persuade others to support your point of view. . . .

Stop saying that this was merely a private matter that won’t affect your work as Mozilla’s CEO. That’s disingenuine and beneath a leader of your stature.

Say that whatever chain of logic led you to conclude that your personal views required you to support Proposition 8 was flawed, erroneous, incorrect. You may well maintain those same views—that’s your prerogative—but you don’t have to draw the same conclusions from them today as you did six years ago.

Go further. Say that you support the rights of people to enter into same-sex marriages everywhere. Say that you will not only support employees in the United States who are in same-sex marriages, but that you will also fight for the civil rights of Mozilla employees who work in societies with less progressive views.

Finally, make a donation equal in amount to the money you gave to Proposition 8 and candidates who supported it to the Human Rights Campaign or another organization that fights for the civil rights of LGBT people. [Emphases in the original]

As the First Things author keenly points out, what is most remarkable about the text isn’t so much the content but its tone. More than a critique or a condemnation, it is a call to conversion.

The remedies demanded (public recantation, propitiatory sacrifice) are of the sort necessitated by ritual defilement, rather than the giving of offense. It is also clear that Thomas does not merely wish Eich to say that he has changed his views, he truly, sincerely, desperately hopes that Eich be transformed. (Anonymous, 2014)

Perhaps Pope Benedict’s phrase, “Dictatorship of Relativism,” might come to mind. Yet, perhaps we beyond that, at least in certain sectors. Relativism is giving way to a “new moral order” with a positive set of moral norms, all of which are supported by a movement that continues to manifest more and more aspects of “crusading zeal”(Anonymous 2014).

abc_andrew_sullivan_this_week_jt_121028_wgAndrew Sulivan, a well-known political commentator and an active supporter of gay marriage, has been notably critical of the event and commented along similar lines:

He did not understand that in order to be a CEO of a company, you have to renounce your heresy! There is only one permissible opinion at Mozilla, and all dissidents must be purged! Yep, that’s left-liberal tolerance in a nut-shell.

All this should serve as a sign for those interested in supporting and living according to the Catholic Church’s teaching. It should also be an incentive for learning more about those teachings and truly understanding them. Too often, sincerely practising Catholics study up on the Church’s stances with their local newspaper or with the New York Times; bad choice. Once understood, it is urgent that we dare to speak out, with heart-felt charity and with an apostolic spirit, never one of condemnation. Yet speak out we must, and now. Because soon the time will arrive when we will be politely directed to forever hold our peace.

Anonymous. 2014. “MOZILLA, MO’ PROBLEMS.” First Things.

“Exit Mr Eich.” 2014. The Economist, April 4.

“Why Mozilla’s Chief Had to Resign.” 2014. Bits Blog. Accessed April 12.

© 2014 – Garrett Johnson para el Centro de Estudios Católicos – CEC

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