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Free-Speech War Over Mozilla Ouster Enters Congress Free-Speech War Over Mozilla Ouster Enters Congress

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Free-Speech War Over Mozilla Ouster Enters Congress

Conservatives are hoping to make Brendan Eich a martyr for free speech, a la Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson.

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(Josep Lago/AFP/Getty)

Brendan Eich's resignation from Mozilla is quickly becoming a Duck Dynasty-stylized talking point for conservative politicians prone to decrying the choice of political correctness over freedom of speech.

As during the scandal late last year that enveloped Phil Robertson, the A&E reality-television star whose infamously crude, homophobic remarks left his show briefly suspended, some politicians are attempting to leverage Eich's departure, claiming it represents an ironic kind of intolerance from the growing gay-rights movement.

 

On Monday, Rep. Frank Wolf took to the House floor to air his grievances over Eich's resignation.

Wolf on Mozilla Firing

"Regardless of your views on marriage, any American who values the First Amendment should be deeply troubled that this man was essentially driven from his job because of his personal beliefs," the Virginia Republican said. "By all accounts, he's a fair and honorable employer, yet because of his private beliefs about traditional marriage, which I share, he has been demonized and his livelihood has been compromised."

 

Wolf continued: "Public opinion on gay marriage has shifted since 2008, when both then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain supported defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman—but America has never been defined by mob rule."

Eich chose to step down as CEO last Thursday following protests against him for his $1,000 donation to a 2008 anti-gay-marriage measure in California. Mozilla had appointed Eich, who cofounded the company, to the executive position just a week earlier before its sudden about-face, which Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker described as the best thing "for Mozilla and our community."

Wolf went on to say that the the furor last week, which included a de facto ban of Mozilla's Firefox web browser on the online-dating site OkCupid, violated the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and "was stifling of debate, a silencing of dissent."

Wolf isn't the only politician sounding the free-speech alarms so far. Over the weekend, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Eich was forced to leave Mozilla due to a "new fascism" taking over parts of corporate America that means "[if] you have the wrong views, meaning conservative, you have no career."

 

The Duck Dynasty controversy grew so large last December that it evoked responses from possible Republican candidates for the presidency, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as onetime vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and, eventually, even President Obama.

This article appears in the April 8, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.

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