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Why Free Speech Is Not So Free

Written by | April 5th, 2014

On April 3rd, Mozilla , the developers of the popular Internet browser, “Firefox,” posted this post on their blog site – announcing that Brendan Eich has resigned, after only 10 days as CEO of Mozilla.

The below paragraph is from this CNN article, which gives some background into how the controversy began:

“Last week, Mozilla promoted Eich, a longtime employee who was previously the company’s chief technology officer, to the position of CEO. The move prompted renewed outrage by third-party developers and employees. Eich donated $1,000 to support Propostion 8 in 2008. The California ballot initiative sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state. The donation was made public in 2012 but Eich held onto his job.”

So, let’s get this straight: Eich, over 5 years ago, made a donation, to a cause that he felt strongly about. The donation, presumably, was made “on his own time,” and completely “independent of the company. ” Yet, even in light of the fact that Mozilla knew about the donation in 2012, they not only kept Eich on board, but promoted him, as well, to CEO. Being promoted to the CEO of a company, is no small achievement; apparently, the company had great confidence in his abilities, knowing full-well that he made this political donation, back in 2008.

For any objective observer, it seems, abundantly clear that, this man was forced out of his job because the leadership at Mozilla, despite the fact that they promoted him to CEO, was too “spineless” to stand up for their employee, when a bunch of intolerant thugs protested his promotion. And, if Mozilla is going to¬†kowtow to every thug who has a disagreement with “their sovereign decision” to select their leadership, “according to their ability,” then, this company deserves whatever ramifications should come their way.

This, however, goes well beyond Mozilla, their CEO, and some disgruntled customers, developers etc.; this goes right to the heart of Free Speech itself.

As most of us are aware, the First Amendment to The United States Constitution, states that, “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the freedom of speech.” And, most State Constitutions, also, protect the citizen’s freedom to speak, freely, without the threat of repercussion from the State. Many people, however, often conflate this prohibition on the Government with a private business. Stated differently: When you are at work, there is no such prohibition against your employer. An employer has every right to curtail their¬† employee’s speech “while the employee is, actually, at work.” What has become a bit disconcerting to me, and I am sure, many other Americans – especially in light of The Internet age – is our right, as supposed free citizens, to speak our minds, and participate in politics, without the fear of repercussions from our employers.

Certainly, when not at work, it does not give employees a license to write distasteful, or defamatory things about their employer, on The Internet. If an employee, outside of work, causes “explicit” damage to their employer’s business, then, I do believe the employer should have recourse, depending on the damage done, which could include the termination of employment. But, I have heard some say that, even when not in work, we have a responsibility to our employers. Really? That is interesting, because, most of us are not being paid, when at home, on “our personal time.” And, to that extent, this Mozilla story should be a little disturbing to anyone who cherishes their right of Free Speech.

For example, if the Freedom of Speech protects us from repercussions, by the Government, for speaking out for or against a politician, or a public policy, but, there are potential repercussions by our employer for doing so, then, for all intents and purposes, we have lost our Freedom of Speech. If one has to fear a backlash from their employer, due to the fact that they participated in politics, who will be inclined to write or do anything of political nature?

Suppose a local Government official happens to know your employer: Is it conceivable that they could say, I read, on your employee’s Facebook page, x, y and z, and I didn’t like it. Then, as a consequence, you were terminated. Was your Freedom of Speech, therefore, protected? The answer should be obvious. And, there are many examples, I’m sure, that could prove this point.

For ALL Americans, who cherish their freedom, whether it is from Government persecution, or simply to enjoy your own personal time, and to have the freedom to speak your mind, and engage in the political process, then, perhaps, the time has come that we seek a well-defined answer as to when, and if, our God-given right to Free Speech is “truly protected.”

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