Science and Religion Index
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

Brendan Eich, Who Wrote Java Script, Fired as CEO of Mozilla for Being Catholic

Many people have read that Brendan Eich was fired from Mozilla because he made a one thousand dollar contribution to the Proposition 8 campaign. Proposition 8 was against the legal recognition of gay marriage in California. But that was not the whole issue. A key element was that in the weeks leading up to his resignation as CEO of Mozilla Brendan refused to come out in favor of gay marriage.

Brendan Eich (pronounced like Ike, as in Ike Eisenhower) did not discuss his religion and politics at work. In fact it is very hard to find evidence concerning his religion on the Internet. He seems to be hiding it. It is easy to find that he received his bachelors at The University of Santa Clara, a Catholic college, and that he has five children, but it took a lot of creative searching to find that he and his wife gave 500 to a 1,000 dollars to Catholic Charities. I suspect that the prejudice against sincerely religious people is so great in the Silicon Valley that religious people feel they have to go to considerable lengths to hide their faith.

I should note that I do not have overwhelming proof that Eich was Catholic. There are many things that seem to point in that direction, and nothing that I can see that points against it. I have not seen anyone present proof that he belonged to another faith. One person commented and claimed that they had heard on a radio show that he was not, and some writers are suspicious because he has not played the faith card in his own defense. Be that as it may, I have written this on the assumption that the above evidence shows that Eich is probably Catholic.

As mentioned above Brendan Eich seems to have carefully avoided letting people know of his faith. Brendan Eich seems to have also been careful not to let anyone know that he opposed gay marriage, and probably did not realize that his famous one thousand dollar contribution to Proposition 8 would become public.

One reason this thousand dollar contribution so infuriates the proponents of gay marriage is their belief that there is only one reason that people are opposed to gay marriage, hate. But for serious Catholics there is the another reason. The Catholic Church requires Catholics to oppose the legal recognition of gay marriage on pain of grave sin. For a well informed Catholic like Brendan Eich grave sin is likely to be mortal sin. So Catholics can be motivated not by hate, but by fear of eternal damnation, or on a more positive note love of God, the Catholic Church, and the Catholic faith.

It can be reasonably argued that those who demanded that Brendan Eich come out in favor of gay marriage were effectively demanding that he apostate the Catholic faith. Therefore, Brendan Eich was forced out of his position as CEO of Mozilla because he is a Catholic. Of course they left him the option to be a nominal Catholic, but he had to chose between his position as CEO of Mozilla and being an authentic Catholic.

For Catholics and more generally serious religious people this is chilling news. Brendan Eich was as mentioned above the man who wrote Java Script, one of the most commonly used computer languages. He also co-founded Mozilla, and was their chief technical officer, an important roll in a software organization. If someone like this is in danger who is safe?

Brendan Eich's ouster has precipitated a lot of talk about witch hunts, persecution, and a new, liberal McCarthyism. But before we feel too helpless, let me say many of us are pretty safe and can speak out. First, the retired. It will be hard to take your social security check, retirement, house, or investments away. The retired are free to speak the truth. When we baby boomers were young we said don't trust anyone over thirty, now we can say don't trust anyone less than sixty five.

But actually there are others who maybe relatively safe. Someone mentioned to me the independently wealthy. In the comics Batman and Green Arrow use their wealth to fight crime. In real life the independently wealthy can fight political correctness.

The world's "little people" may also be fairly safe: the housewife, the janitor, etc. I do not know of any case where the enforcers of political correctness managed to fire a janitor or a truck driver. I also have never heard of anyone being fired because his wife took a controversial position. It may have happened, but it is probably very rare. For the sake of freedom we may have to take some risks, though I believe the onus is more on the retired than the truck driver trying to support several kids.

Of course we should avoid mean spirited bigotry and ideas that are genuinely wrong. The Catholic Catechism says of homosexuals "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." Still those that are safe or relatively safe have a special responsibility to stand up for truth.

Finally, as a Catholic I take great pride in Brendan Eich. As he has five children I suspect that he may well be one of the four percent of the Catholic married couples that follow the Church's teaching. As about one in four Americans is Catholic, that makes him about one in a hundred. This suggests that this one percent of the American population, Catholics who follow the Church's teaching on birth control, has done considerably more than its part in providing technical leadership for creating the Internet.

That Brendan Eich was not only willing to have five children but also chose to resign rather than deny the Vatican's teaching makes this all the more impressive. It calls into question the commonly voiced opinion that intelligent people can not be genuinely religious.

Of course over the centuries we have seen a lot of evidence that sincerely religious people can make great contributions to science. Most people see Catholic priests and monks as religiously dedicated and the contribution of Catholic priests and monks to science has been incredible. Copernicus who revived the ancient Greek idea that the earth orbits the sun, and who is often said to be the father of modern science was a Catholic clergyman. Mendel who discovered genetics and is often said to be after Darwin the most important contributor to biology was a monk. Georges Lemaitre A Catholic priest, and abbot discovered the Big Bang theory, our basic theory of the origin of the universe. These are just some of the most prominent examples.

On scholar collected and published in the late 19th or early 20th Century a list of major scientists in human history. He noted when he had completed it that about ten percent of the scientists were Catholic priests or monks. I have been looking for a reference to that list, if you can help, please contact me.

About one out of every ten thousand people on the planet is a Catholic priest or monk, though of course in the past they were a larger portion of the population. Still the fact that this small portion of the population has done so much for science is impressive and perhaps miraculous.

Just as Saint Thomas Moore did what he could to avoid martyrdom, Brendan Eich struggled hard to accommodate the liberal/libertarian ethos of Silicon Valley. But when the enemies of God's faith demanded apostasy Brendan Eich chose to remain with the faith rather than Mozilla. True he did not die, as Saint Thomas Moore did, but on a smaller scale he was "a man for all seasons." They canned him, let's canonize him.

Homosexuals have said that they find Eich's attitudes troublesome. I can understand that homosexuals feel they are being singled out for condemnation. But lets put the situation into context. Most married heterosexuals are using contraception and therefore are out of compliance with Catholic teaching on sex. From the Catholic point of view, and presumably Brendan Eich's, the sexually active homosexual is not more sinful than about ninety nine percent of the rest of the population. Before the heterosexual Catholic judges the homosexual too harshly they need to examine their own behavior.

Finally, a bit about legal recognition of gay marriage. Under our constitution homosexuals have a right to hold "wedding ceremonies" with cooperative clergy, and tell people that they are married. That is covered by freedom of speech, association, and religion. Furthermore, opposing government recognition of gay marriage has nothing to do with telling people what they may or may not do in their bedrooms. It is not about the freedom of gays to marry. It is about whether the government that represents the people will recognize those marriages as equivalent to heterosexual marriage.

Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church. As Catholics we must honor all the sacraments including marriage. Sure we too frequently fail, but our faith teaches us to always hope, to repent, and never give up. The fact that we have often failed to honor marriage as it should be, is no reason to violate the Church's teaching that we are required to oppose the legal recognition of gay marriage.

Some will say we have no right to oppose gay marriage. But we have the right to oppose gay marriage, for the same reason we generally have rights, because we have a religious responsibility to oppose gay marriage. We have the right to do what our faith requires us to do.

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Last edited June 27, 2015

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