Where’s the tolerance? Mozilla CEO forced to resign

A mere two weeks after taking over as CEO of Mozilla, tech-prodigy and Javascript inventor Brendan Eich was released from his contract. No one had disputed either his leadership or creative abilities, and there was nothing in Eich’s management history that even hinted at unfairness or discriminatory practices or an unwillingness on his part to work with all sorts of people.

The issue was a $1,000 donation Eich made in 2008 in support of Proposition 8 — a California law that banned same-sex marriage — and his apparent unwillingness to publicly recant his personal beliefs on what constitutes marriage.

Despite Eich’s written commitment “to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or have been marginalized,” some members of the gay community would not give him the time he requested to demonstrate his inclusivity and would not accept his expression of “sorrow at having caused pain.”

“If he had apologized years ago,” said Hampton Catlin, “this would be a non-issue.” Catlin is a Web developer; his open letter to Mozilla protesting Eich’s appointment was the catalyst for what followed, including the weirdly self-contradicting apology from Mozilla, which affirmed the “wide diversity of views” it encouraged within its staff, even as it demonstrated that its tolerance on differing viewpoints ran the narrowest of gamuts.

Among social conservatives and the religious-minded, the Eich story is being received as evidence that our cultural pursuit of all things “diverse” does not extend itself to diversity of thought. Between Catlin’s permitting Brendan Eich his “personal beliefs” as long as he publicly falls in line and the Obama administration’s often-repeated commitment to “freedom of worship” rather than freedom of religion, one need not be a weatherman to sense how awfully chill the wind is blowing: One’s beliefs are fine, it seems, as long as they go unspoken; one’s religion is free as long as it remains behind doors and within the church walls.

While some in the homosexual community have applauded Mozilla’s dismissal of Eich — Tyler Lopez at Slate.com suggests that Eich can only be “forgiven” for his sin if he recognizes his “duty to continue to acknowledge it” again and again — others have expressed “disgust,” perhaps none more defiantly than Andrew Sullivan, a long-time activist for same-sex marriage, who wrote: “If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”

It is beyond ironic that some of the very people who fought to be able to live their lives freely and “out of the closet” are now actively working to shove others into a closet of silence, where personal beliefs are stowed away in service to a shushing tyranny of “niceness” — a pretend world where no one ever disagrees with anyone or entertains a thought that might slip into non-conformity, and the dubious idol of the permitted social idea has become the unmerciful all-in-all, a godling demanding constant prostration and continual penance under threat of eternal damnation.

Though ostensibly a “secular” topic, the Eich story has earned that religious allusion. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens called totalitarianism “a religious impulse” and said resistance to the totalitarian mentality was “an endless war ... refought in every country and every generation.”

Now is our turn. The totalitarian horrors of the 20th century grew upon successful movements to oppress so-called “wrong” thinking, which is antithetical to the very notions of tolerance and of diversity. What followed was a most sinful subjugation of human minds and souls.

Elizabeth Scalia is a Benedictine Oblate and the managing editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos.com, where she also blogs as The Anchoress.