Does Mozilla Have the Right to Be Intolerant?

I’ve read several great commentaries this week on the “resignation” of Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla Corporation. But some of the comments I saw made in his defense made me ask, “Does a business have the right to be intolerant?”

At the outset, let me be clear, it is not good that a group of people would try to cost another person his or her job simply because the person exercised a right to participate in the political process. To boycott a business because of its policies or its business practices is one thing, but to make it about getting a particular person fired on the basis of political disagreement is quite another.

That being said, here are two comments made by several commentators in Eich’s defense that gave me pause: First, he never brought his politics into the workplace, and second, Mozilla was very “gay friendly” in its workplace policies.

The First Question We Must Ask

So, at the risk of drawing the ire of fellow conservatives, I must ask, “Is it good that a CEO who will be providing direction for a business is able to leave his political beliefs aside when he comes to work?”

I know most today would say, “Absolutely,” and there is a part of me that wants to agree. Yet something nags at me.

Unlike beliefs about the best brand of ice cream, political beliefs flow from beliefs that go to the very core of how we see God, man, and the world. And aren’t those the kinds of beliefs that should influence the decisions we make, regardless of the context in which those decisions are made?

For Christians, the ability to put our personal religious beliefs aside when we walk out the church door is often called “compartmentalization.” That’s not a commendable quality, because we Christians are effectively saying that some “thing” about our existence—reputation, wealth, power, etc.—is more important than the will and truth of Him who created us and sustains our existence.

The Second Question We Must Ask

Holding that thought, let’s now turn our focus toward Mozilla. If Mozilla’s corporate value system embraces a worldview that says sexual acts between two men or two women is ethically virtuous, that marriage is not a relationship between a man and a woman, and that there are no differences between men and women and therefore men should be allowed to behave as women and women behave as men, then does the corporation have the right to employ leaders who embrace those values?

Putting these two thoughts together, if Mozilla, having learned of Mr. Eich’s political contribution, believed that his contribution reflected a deeply seated moral value grounded in a worldview incompatible with its corporate worldview, then should it have the right to not promote him or to fire him once they realize what his beliefs are?

Conservatives need to be careful before they answer. If Mozilla does not have that right, then neither does the Christian business owner who has different beliefs about human sexuality and marriage.

Why the Questions Are Important

While we rightly condemn the viciousness of those who, as outsiders to a business, would seek to deny a person their livelihood because of political disagreement, we better be careful if and when we ask civil government to intervene in the affairs of business employment decisions.

In Tennessee, that day is coming. What will our legislators do when asked to make sexual orientation, gender, or even marital status a “protected class” in the workplace? The answer will depend on how much “intolerance” our respect for liberty is willing to tolerate.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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