"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, April 7, 2014

On Brendan Eich - Or, Silican Valley Hangs Out Its "No Catholics Need Apply" Sign

The firing (or "forced resignation") of the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, for his supposedly "anti-gay" views is getting a lot of attention.    Eich had donated $1000 to a group arguing for Proposition 8 in California in 2007, six years ago.   That was the Constitutional amendment (to the California constitution) that defined marriage under California law as being solely between a man and a woman.   It has since been held to be unconstitutional by the courts, but in 2007 it passed in California with more than 52% of the vote... about 7 million Californians voted for it.  

Now, however, it is apparently deemed unacceptable for a company to hire a CEO, however qualified (Eich was their Chief Technology Officer, had helped found the company, and is by all accounts a genius computer programmer, having invented JavaScript), who was in favor of such an amendment, even though 99% of American politicians held the identical position at the time, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  

There has been a somewhat predictable backlash from conservatives against what they call (a la Jonah Goldberg) "liberal fascism," and a good deal of that criticism is well-taken.   We are certainly losing touch with our traditions of free speech under the 1st Amendment if we start blacklisting people who take positions that a majority (or, in this case, a loud minority) find offensive, for whatever reason.

But what I haven't seen anywhere is to me the most obvious point that needs to be made.   Here are some facts that are noted in passing in some of the coverage:

1. Brendan Eich has five children.
2. Brendan Eich grew up in Pittsburgh.
3. Brendan Eich went to college at Santa Clara in California.

And, I'll add an even more obvious "fact":

4. Brendan Eich's name is, in fact, "Brendan."

Now I haven't seen this reported anywhere, but I put those facts together and what they suggest to me is that Brendan Eich has a high probability of being a Catholic.   Pittsburgh is a heavily Catholic city.   Santa Clara is a Jesuit university.   "Brendan" is the name of an Irish-Catholic saint.   And, five children... in today's society, I am certain that families who have five children or more skew heavily Catholic.  

Which may put his supposedly "anti-gay" views in some perspective.   It is perfectly coherent, and is in fact the position of the Catholic catechism, to believe that marriage is a sacred relationship between a man and a woman with the intent of forming a family and having children, and still also believe that gay persons should be treated fairly and with dignity and compassion.   There is, of course, ample evidence that Eich always did treat Mozilla employees, gay and straight, fairly and with dignity and compassion.   

So what we have here, in my view, and based on my conjecture about Eich's faith,. is not just a 1st Amendment free speech issue, it's also, and perhaps more importantly, a 1st Amendment free exercise of religion issue.   Because it's apparent to me that Silicon Valley has essentially gone back to the 19th Century and is hanging out a "No Catholics Need Apply" sign.  

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