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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Brian Grim Briefs Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau on Religious Freedom at Davos

28 Jan, 2016

IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Davos, 2016, World Economic Forum — Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Chair of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith, briefed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Religious Freedom at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Trudeau_and_GrimBuilding on the work the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith did in Abu Dhabi in 2015, Grim discussed with Prime Minister Trudeau the 2-page briefing document drafted by Archbishop Antje on the “Role of Faith in Addressing Key Global Challenges” (available here). This work directly connects with agenda items he has, including education on pluralism/diversity and promoting gender equality. 

Grim also discussed the future of Canada’s international religious freedom office, currently headed by Ambassador Andrew Bennett. Prime Minister Trudeau expressed great respect for Ambassador Bennett, and said he’s looking forward to exploring how to move the work of the office forward. Grim also discussed how freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) is a mechanism by which pluralism and diversity are peaceful and productive.

The meeting with Trudeau was a small group setting with 16 participants. Also present in the briefing were leaders of major global NGOs. This also helped put faith on the radar screens of other key global leaders. Those present were: Secretary-General Amnesty International; Secretary-General International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); Executive Director Oxfam International; Chief Executive Officer United Way Worldwide; ChiefDavos 2016Rabbi and President Conference of European Rabbis, Russian Federation; Chief Executive Officer Mercy Corps; President International Rescue Committee; Director, Secretariat Control Arms; Director Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law; Executive Director Human Rights Watch; Secretary-General Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Managing Director Transparency International; and Chief Executive Officer International Bridges to Justice.

Other meetings Grim had at Davos included those with Al Gore, Cardinal Turkson (Pontifical Council on Justice & Peace), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Francis Collins (Director National Institutes of Health). 

Protections for the Rights of Religious Minorities in Muslim Lands: The Marrakesh Declaration

28 Jan, 2016

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARRAKESH, 27 January 2016 — At the invitation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, 250 of the world’s eminent Islamic leaders convened to discuss the rights of religious minorities and the obligation to protect them in Muslim majority states.

Bin Bayyah

This position has historic roots dating to the time of Prophet Mohammed and the Medina Charter. Today’s Declaration was issued at a time of heightened social hostility fueled by violent extremism, widespread Islamophobia and the denial of rights, sometimes justified by misrepresentations of Islamic teachings.

The conference was organized by the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in Abu Dhabi. His Eminence Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, the President of the Forum for Promoting Peace and Co-Moderator of Religions for Peace (RfP), offered the keynote address that set the framework for deliberation among the Islamic leaders. Fifty senior leaders from the world’s diverse religious traditions other than Islam were invited as observers of the Islamic deliberations.

A summary of the Marrakesh Declaration includes:

— “The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and are in harmony with the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

— “Affirm[s] that it is impermissible to employ religion for the purpose of detracting from the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”

— “Call[s] upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all words that promote hatred and racism.”

The fifty religious leaders other than Muslims:

Marrakesh Meeting— Expressed their gratitude to the Islamic leaders for their unflinching courage and devotion to their tradition and for welcoming non-Muslims among them as observers;

— Affirmed values shared with the Islamic leaders;

— Asked forgiveness for past and current injuries for which their communities are complicit;

— Shared particular concerns over violence in the name of religion, limitations of citizenship, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, and xenophobia, especially Islamophobia;

— Committed to follow-up work in solidarity with Muslim brothers and sisters to build a culture of peace; and,

— Respectfully expressed the hope that this convening of Islamic leaders will be continued by future regional conferences.

Every attack, every hate crime, every insult, every humiliation is amplified in the media and sends out a polarizing wave, fueling the rise in hostility. Only religious communities cooperating —standing shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity — can transform this vicious cycle into a virtuous one, in which the good deeds of each community call out to and reinforce the good deeds of the others.RfP is committed to supporting all religious communities in collaborative efforts to build a virtuous cycle for Peace.

Brian Grim Meets Shaykh bin Bayyah

Bin Bayyah and GrimBrian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, met last night after the adoption of the Declaration, with Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, together with other religious leaders. Grim briefed the Shaykh on the potential role of business in fostering interfaith understanding and peace.

Specifically, Grim told about the Foundation’s first global forum on business, interfaith understanding and peace on April 29, 2015, in São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital. Among the sponsors was Latin America’s oldest mosque, Mesquita Brasil, where the Global Forum was held. The forum brought some 700 leaders together for a gala celebration where Muslims, Jews and Christians dined side-by-side to commemorate its status as a leader in religious freedoms. The theme was “Brazil a voice to the world.” The event is the first of a series to bolster the role of business in supporting religious freedom.

Sheikh Abdel Hammed Metwally, religious leader of Mesquita Brasil, highlighted the positive example of interfaith understanding and peace in Brazil. “This will be the first of many meetings”, he said, and “given the importance of the subject we want to share it with more people and show the world how Brazil stands out in leading position, by tolerating and peacefully accommodate the most diverse creeds. “

Nasser Fares, the lay president of Mesquita Brasil considered it an honor to welcome such an eclectic group in a celebration, highlighting Brazil as an example to other nations. Ricardo Cerqueira Leite, president of the Association for Religious Freedom and Business (ALRN) also noted that Brazil is ahead of many countries to express support and respect for peaceful religious diversity. “We are essentially a nation with natural vocation to deal with religious differences,” he said, “and to conduct ourselves in ways that highlight these values as an example to the world.”

During the meeting withShaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Grim also invited him to help seek out nominees for the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards which will recognize business leaders – current or past CEOs – who have demonstrated leadership in championing interfaith understanding and peace.

The Awards will be presented on September 6, 2016, at the start of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where award recipients will have the opportunity to present their commitment to interfaith understanding and peace while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16. The Awards are co-sponsored by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), its Brazilian affiliate, the Associação pela Liberdade Religiosa e Negócios (ALRN), and the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace (B4P) platform.

Shaykh bin Bayyah will receive the Newseum’s first religious freedom award this April.

Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands: Call to Action

16 Jan, 2016

Religious Freedom & Business Foundation President Brian Grim, at the invitation of The Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs of Morocco, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Washington, D.C., will participate in the conference “Religious Minorities in Muslim Lands: Legal Framework and Call for Action” in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 25th to 27th January, 2016.

The conference will be taking place under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, in conjunction with the Forum for promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. The conference will be attended by delegates representing different religious confessions, government representatives and academia from all over the world. It aims to explore new venues for dealing with religious minorities living in Muslims majority countries that is ethically rooted in the sacred texts of Islam, yet reflects the reality of the modern world.

Marrakesh Conference Concept Paper 

At the meeting, Grim will bring insights from his research on the socio-economic benefits of religious freedom and interfaith understanding, the primary being peace and stability – key ingredients for sustainable development.

In order to examine more deeply what entails the rights of religious minorities in Muslim lands, both in theory and practice, His Highness, King Muhammad VI of Morocco, will host a conference in Marrakesh in the Kingdom of Morocco. The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, based in the U.A.E. will jointly organize the conference, scheduled to be held from 25th – 27th January, 2016 (15th – 17th Rabi al-Thani, 1437). A large number of ministers, muftis, religious scholars, and academics from various backgrounds and schools of thought will, God willing, participate in this conference. Representatives from various religions, including those pertinent to the discussion, from the Muslim world and beyond, as well as representatives from various international Islamic associations and organizations will be in attendance.

The conference’s discussions and research will focus on the following areas:

  1. 1) Grounding the discussion surrounding religious minorities in Muslim lands in Sacred Law utilizing its general principles, objectives, and adjudicative methodology;
  2. 2) exploring the historical dimensions and contexts related to the issue; and
  3. 3) examining the impact of domestic and international rights.

This conference, with God’s help and providence, aims to begin the historic revival of the objectives and aims of the Charter of Medina, taking into account global and international treaties and utilizing enlightening, innovative case studies that are good examples of working towards pluralism. The conference also aims to contribute to the broader legal discourse surrounding contractual citizenship and the protection of minorities, to awaken the dynamism of Muslim societies and encourage the creation a broad-based movement of protecting religious minorities in Muslim lands.

 

Brian Grim at Davos: Discussing Role of Faith in Economy, Security and Technology

16 Jan, 2016

Davos 2016Over 40 heads of state and government, as well as 2,500 leaders from business and society will convene at the 46th World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, from 20 to 23 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Brian Grim will represent the WEF Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith,* bringing a faith perspective and voice for freedom of religion and belief to the proceedings. For instance, Grim will participate in invitation-only sessions, including with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, on the global challenge of pluralism and diversity.

As chair of the Council on the Role of Faith, Grim will participate in the Global Agenda Global Council Chairs Workshop. The workshop will have remarks from business and civic leaders including Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States (1993-2001).

In advance of the 2016 Davos meeting, Grim and his colleagues on the WEF Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith have been putting together a toolkit on the role of faith in addressing global challenges. The most recent, prepared just for Davos, looks at the positive, negative and perspective-giving role of faith to key global challenges.

Role of Faith in Addressing ChallengesThe Role of Faith in Addressing Key Global Challenges: This first-of-its-kind 2-pager is authored by the Archbishop of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, together with Prof. Linda Woodhead (UK) and Grim, and input from Council members.

Other pieces of the toolkit come from the work of various members of the Council. For instance, see Grim’s highly cited article, The Link Between Economic and Religious Freedoms, and the joint statement by the Council published by Chris Seiple on What faith can do for 9 global challenges. Also see Can religion make economic growth more fair? (Grim & Woodhead) and Religion holds women back. Or does it? (Grim & Lyon).

Also see the global demographic and economic report, Changing religion, changing economies prepared for the Council, which draws on a 2015 global study published in Demographic Research and its connected Pew Research Center report, has profound implications for the global economy. The study shows that reports of the death of organized religion have been exaggerated. According to recent research, the growth of religious populations worldwide is projected to be 23 times larger than the growth of the unreligious between 2010 and 2050.

Against the background of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the conclusion of the COP21 in Paris, Grim will discuss how the role of faith can build or improve multi-stakeholder partnerships to successfully implement these and other policy frameworks to address global challenges.

Grim, who is writing a series of articles on the how religious freedom contributes to the SDGs, will help develop recommendations on how to make such partnerships effective and efficient to achieve transformative change on global challenges – from sustainable development to food security, and gender equality to inclusive growth.

The main theme at Davos 2016 is Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the fusion of technologies across the physical, digital and biological worlds which is creating entirely new capabilities and dramatic impacts on political, social and economic systems,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Grim will participate in an invitation-only high level session to look at the role of religion and faith in the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Also participating are Cardinal Peter Turkson President Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Bishop Marcelo Sorondo Secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In his book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Prof. Klaus Schwab calls for more cooperation and dialogue to build shared understanding around the values and ethical principles embedded in present-day staggering technological transformation.

The engagement of religion and faith leaders in defining the moral framework of tomorrow has become critical. Faith is an engine force in guiding societal and economic interactions, and it provides a moral and ethical compass to individuals and societies at large. In the ever-changing context of the fourth industrial revolution, religion and faith have the power to lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness by providing explicit ethical principles and comprehensive narratives on how we could make sense and shape current developments while having human dignity in mind.

The key question to be taken up is: How can faith influence (and be influenced by) the emergence of new technologies and what are the applicable values and principles that should be part of a new value framework?

Grim will also participate in discussions on how religions are adapting and evolving in 21st century societies. Issues to be covered include: Balancing modernist and fundamentalist tenets; Motivating action on the environment and inequality; and Attracting millennials to organized religion. Panellist include Bani Dugal Principal Representative Bahá’í International Community; Frank Fredericks Executive Director World Faith; Matthieu Ricard President Karuna-Shechen, France; Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury; Hamza Yusuf Hanson President Zaytuna College, with the discussion moderated by Thomas L. Friedman Columnist, Foreign Affairs New York Times.

Grim will add to the understanding the connection between religious freedom, security and the economy in a variety of encounters, including with Arab leaders. In an era of low oil prices and protracted conflict, how can Arab economies advance necessary reforms? Discussion leaders include: Suhail Bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei Minister of Energy Ministry of Energy of the United Arab Emirates; Khalid Al Rumaihi Chief Executive Bahrain Economic Development Board; Anas Khalid Al Saleh Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Oil Ministry of Finance of Kuwait.


* Members of the WEF Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith include: Edward A. Bice; Dekila Chungyalpa; Brian J. Grim; Roshi Joan Halifax; Christopher Helland; Ahmad Iravani; Antje Jackelén; Liu Peng; Jo Anne Lyon; Sébastien Maillard; Carlos W. Martins; Oliver McTernan; Oliver Niedermaier; Niel Nielson; John O. Onaiyekan; Chris Seiple; Mona Siddiqui; Linda Woodhead.

Corporate Pledge on Religious Freedom Public Launch

16 Jan, 2016

CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, Senator Gordon H. Smith, gave the keynote at the Washington DC Jan. 12th launch of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s Corporate Pledge (photos by Maria Byrk/Newseum Institute).

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation co-hosted this event with the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in anticipation of the President’s annual declaration of January 16th as Religious Freedom Day, calling upon Americans to observe this day through appropriate events and activities.

High level panelists* discussed how businesses can successfully negotiate religious freedom and workplace issues. In an era when millennials are especially concerned for fairness and equality for all, respecting the religion and beliefs of employees is not only fair and good policy, but is also good for business.

Sen. Gordon Smith - Business_&_Religious_Freedom_Event_1.12.2015_106At the event, CEOs, representatives of major companies, heads of trade and commerce organizations, and the media were introduced to a nonpartisan corporate pledge on religious nondiscrimination and inclusion in the workplace. This new resource and its associated resource documents will align with core American values of religious freedom while creating a more inclusive work environment that leverages religious diversity.


*Other speakers included Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum; Richard T. Foltin, Director, National and Legislative Affairs in American Jewish Committee’s Office of Government and International Affairs; Charles C. Haynes, Vice President Newseum Institute / Religious Freedom Center and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center; Dwayne Leslie, Associate Director Panel_Business_&_Religious_Freedom_Event_1.12.2015_169in the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Director of Legislative Affairs for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Daniel Mach, Director, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Zainab Al-Suwaij,Executive Director and a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC).

Corporate Pledge: Four Guiding Principles

Corp-pledgeFor rationale and more corporate documents, see http://religiousfreedomandbusiness.org/corporate-documents
Email complete corporate pledge to RFBF president: brian@religiousfreedomandbusiness.org

(1) Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Business Through Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief

[COMPANY] affirms that freedom of religion or belief (“FoRB”) is a fundamental right.* [COMPANY] also recognizes that religious freedom promotes sustainable and innovative businesses, contributes to human flourishing, and results in peaceful and stable societies. For these reasons, and with a vision of a future of innovative and sustainable economies where FoRB and diversity are respected, [COMPANY] strives to be a leader in promoting and protecting FoRB in its workplace and communities. [COMPANY] will not tolerate abuses of religious freedom within its sphere of influence. 

(2) Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment on the Basis of Religion or Belief

[COMPANY] respects each individual’s rights to freedom of religion or belief, provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. This prohibition on religious discrimination applies to all aspects of employment including, without limitation, recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, demotions, compensation, benefits, transfers, terminations. [COMPANY] will take appropriate action upon receiving a report consistent with its general non-harassment and non-discrimination policy.

 (3) Religious Accommodation and Inclusion

[COMPANY] promotes a religiously inclusive environment where each employee’s beliefs are recognized and respected, but where religion or belief is not a matter of force or coercion. Consistent with this policy, an employee may seek, and [COMPANY] will provide, a reasonable religious accommodation that does not create an undue hardship on [COMPANY]’s business if his or her religious beliefs, observances, practices, or requirements conflict with his or her job, work schedule, [COMPANY]’s policy or practice on dress and appearance, or with other aspects of employment.

(4) Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Our Communities

[COMPANY] strives to be a leader in promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) among its stakeholders and in the broader community. [COMPANY] gives priority to business partners, suppliers, and contractors who share [COMPANY]’s values, including FoRB. [COMPANY] supports their efforts to promote these values through their business activities. Among other practices that are consistent with this policy, [COMPANY] will strive to support local, national and global initiatives that promote FoRB, and may refrain from doing business with or investing in companies and governments that restrict FoRB.

[SIGNATURE & COMPANY DETAILS]

Version 1.5, December 18, 2015

* Freedom of Religion or Belief – FoRB – is an internationally recognized human right protecting people’s right to practice, change or have no religion (see Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

 

Corporate Pledge on Religious Freedom – A History

16 Jan, 2016

Brian-Grim-Business_&_Religious_Freedom_Event_1.12.2015_55January 12, 2016: Washington, DC

Brian Grim’s comments at the public launch of the Corporate Pledge on Religious Freedom (event photos by Maria Byrk/Newseum Institute).*


I’d like to give you the history of the corporate pledge that you have in front of you in support of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), the international formulation of what we here in the U.S. that we generally just refer to as religious freedom, based on Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18, in short, guarantees everyone’s right to have and practice a religion, change their religion, or have no religion at all.**

The history of the corporate pledge – like the history of a company or business – is really the history of the people who made it and continue to make it day after day.

The idea for the corporate pledge began in the Middle East in the 1990s, when the vice president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Greg Clark, then Managing Legal Counsel for Occidental Petroleum in the region, saw how local governments responded when they met with State Department officials on human rights and religious freedom issues – polite but not a high priority. By contrast, when Occidental representatives raised a concern that affected its employees or interests, it was treated as a priority.

Sen. Gordon Smith - Business_&_Religious_Freedom_Event_1.12.2015_106At the same time, and quite independently, I was heading up the first faith-based development organization in what was then the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. As the Soviet Union was dissolved, the new (and current) president of Kazakhstan immediately announced support for religious freedom, and one his first actions was to turn over the Communist Party Training School to be turned into the country’s first business school. At that point Pres. Nazarbaev perceived a direct connection between religious and economic freedom. As a result, and certainly not perfectly, Nazarbaev envisioned a future where Muslims, Christians and people of various faiths could work together to build a new country.

That’s a bit of ancient history.

Since then, and after many years in corporate law, my colleague Greg Clark left the Middle East volunteered for his church as its legal and religious freedom representative for Brazil. From there, he got me interested in looking at the global research on I’d been coordinating for the better part of a decade at the Pew Research Center from a different perspective – from the self interests of businesses and governments. Indeed, research I’ve published with Greg as well as a string of articles at the World Economic Forum, where I serve as chair of the global agenda council on the role of faith, show just that. Where religious freedom and the diversity that arises with it are protected and respected, sustainable, long term economic development is more likely. One of the main causal links is that where religious freedom is present, peace and the stability it provides for businesses to grow is much more likely. For more on that argument you can see my Cambridge University Press book with Roger Finke, The Price of Freedom Denied.

And, it was in Brazil, that the idea came about for this corporate pledge that is accompanied by a packet of supporting corporate documents you can find on our website. The first step was for me to leave Pew and set up the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation as a platform to study and make known the connections between religious freedom and better socio-economic outcomes. The launch of the foundation took place in 2014 in Brazil, that included not only the Brazilian vice president Michel Temer, but also leading business people, one of whom simply observed that if we could provide him some basic language in support of freedom of religion and belief and religious nondiscrimination – things that he already wholeheartedly supported – that he’d be glad to get it inserted into the corporate documents of the companies he controlled.

That’s when two corporate lawyers here with us today – Gavin Parker and Rob Ellis – volunteered to turn the idea into a series of corporate documents that you can find on the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation website under “initiatives”, including the corporate pledge you have today. Rob and Gavin transformed some rough concepts into drafts that were then circulated to a number of religious freedom experts, including the religious freedom round table that Charles Haynes helps coordinate; the folks at Tanenbaum, including Mark Fowler, Elizabeth Joslin and Eliza Blanchard; and several of the panel members who will speak later, including Dan Mach from ACLU, Richard Foltin from AJC.

1024845This corporate pledge has also been developed in the context of a partnership that the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation has with the United Nations. Around the same time that I was setting up the Foundation, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon set up the Business for Peace Platform within the United Nations Global Compact. Together, we plan to hold an awards event during the upcoming Olympics in Brazil recognizing business leaders who are advancing interfaith understanding, religious freedom, and peace through their company’s work, their own advocacy, or through public-private partnerships.

We are honored today to have a board member of the UN Global Compact with us, Y.W. Junardy, Chief Corporate Officer of the Rajawali Corp., a business group involved in multiple industries across Indonesia. Junardy is a true global leader in putting to practice the potential of business as a force for good. Just two examples among many. First, Junardy enlisted Sec. Gen Ban Ki-Moon to help launch a new resource on how business is a powerful force to support interfaith understanding, practical religious freedom, and peace. The joint publication with my Foundation and the UN Global Compact Network in Indonesia gives case studies of four different ways businesses do this, including: 1) using marketing expertise to bridge borders; 2) incentivizing innovation; 3) incubating and catalyzing social entrepreneurship; and 4) supporting workplace diversity.  Since launching this in Indonesia in 2014, we’ve since translated it into Portuguese and featured the publication at a major religious freedom and business event in Brazil. The event was attended by some 700 business and community leaders and was hosted in Brazil’s first mosque. Second, Junardy has used his business to help alleviate poverty among multiple faith groups in Indonesia by overcoming a severe social problem, that is many people in Indonesia found themselves in the situation that they are living as families out of wedlock, preventing their children from being registered and essentially living as stateless persons. He’s helped thousands of couples marry by hosting mass interfaith wedding events, one of which he has just come back from Timor-Leste.

UN Public Sector ForumThese connections through the UN Global Compact have allowed the role of religious freedom to be highlighted among top business leaders, including at a recent event with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and some 300 other corporate leaders at the UN. Just as an example of one result from that, Aviva, one of the UK’s largest and oldest insurance companies, has taken an interest in the corporate pledge that you have before you.

I’d like to recognize another special guest, Arnie Podgorsky, a corporate lawyer here in DC, working with Fouad Makhzoumi, a Lebanese billionaire working in the gas and pipe business. Unfortunately Fouad can’t be with us today, but his work is an example of how a businessman in a difficult part of the world sees religious freedom as critical for socio-economic success. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for religious freedom, The Makhzoumi Foundation has provided job training for over 400,000 people in Lebanon – that’s one in ten people in the country. But the unique nature of the program is that Makhzoumi, a Sunni Muslim, insists that the job training benefit all in Lebanese society, not just members of his faith. As he says, only when people of all faiths have the opportunity to rise together can the economy of a country be successful.

Finally, and now going back to really ancient history, I grew up in a house where business and faith interacted quite naturally. My parents are here today. And it was my father who while working as a chief engineer for a major international corporation also was head of our church’s building committee, led a boy scout troop, taught Sunday school, and participated in a stock club. All those activities fit naturally together, with his faith and work providing an example to me of how the freedom to be who you are wherever you are is one of the great sources of innovation and human development.


Panel Discussion

  • – Senator Gordon H. Smith, President & CEO, National Assoc. of Broadcasters
  • – Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum
  • – Richard T. Foltin, Director, National and Legislative Affairs in American Jewish Committee’s Office of Government and International Affairs
  • – Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
  • – Charles C. Haynes, Vice President Newseum Institute / Religious Freedom Center and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center
  • – Dwayne Leslie, Associate Director in the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Director of Legislative Affairs for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
  • – Daniel Mach, Director, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
  • – Zainab Al-Suwaij,Executive Director and a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC)

Questions to the Panel:

(1) Let’s begin with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of last June 1st in favor of Samantha Elauf, an American Muslim woman who wears a hijab and was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch when she was 17. Elauf claimed the company did not offer her a job because her religious identity, and specifically because her hijab, violates Abercrombie’s “look policy.” The court ruled 8-to-1 in favor of Elauf. What are some of the various ways that U.S. law protects employees from religious discrimination in hiring, firing and advancement?

(2) Turning now to a more recent event hitting the news is a workplace prayer dispute with Somali workers at Cargill Meat Solutions Fort Morgan, Colorado, meatpacking plant that led to the firing of about 190 employees. The workers who lost their jobs were mostly immigrants from Somalia, and their termination came after they failed to report to work for three consecutive days in December to protest what they say were changes in times allowed for Muslim prayer. Cargill says, however, it makes every “reasonable attempt” to provide religious accommodation for all of its employees at the Fort Morgan plant without interrupting operations. This raises the question of how far employers should be expected to accommodate religious practices in the workplace. Are companies doing enough?

(3) Last week it was reported that more than 100 Georgia-based businesses have formed a partnership to oppose religious freedom legislation that has sparked convention and tourism boycotts in states where it has been passed into law, most notably in Indiana last fall, with Apple CEO Tim Cook as a leading critic. These businesses argue that religious freedom legislation will be used to discriminate against LGBT people in employment and public accommodations. Certainly, the question of “if and how to accommodate employees with a religious objection to same-sex marriage” is a live issue. How should companies balance ostensibly conflicting claims for rights from LGBT and religious employees? What role should companies play in publicly supporting or denouncing religious freedom legislation?

(4) And now to wrap up, I’d like to return to the corporate pledge. What possibilities do you see for advancing the four points*** of the pledge within the business community?


The event was co-hosted by the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

** Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” 

*** (a) Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Business Through Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief; (b) Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment on the Basis of Religion or Belief; (c) Religious Accommodation and Inclusion; and (d) Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Our Communities

Jan. 12th EVENT: Business and Religious Freedom – The Way Forward

11 Jan, 2016

Business & Religious Freedom - The Way ForwardWHEN: January 12, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

WHERE: Knight Conference Center, Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA

COST: Free and open to the public. Registration is required.

REGISTER: RSVP


On Tuesday, January 12, 2016, we will co-host an event in anticipation of the President’s annual declaration of January 16th as Religious Freedom Day, calling upon Americans to observe this day through appropriate events and activities.

Research and experience tell us that the success of the U.S. economy and society is due in no small part to the success we have had promoting a strong and religiously diverse workplace, one that includes and protects people of all faiths and none. Recent research, however, finds that more than one-in-three American workers report experiencing or witnessing workplace religious discrimination.

The event will discuss how businesses can successfully negotiate religious freedom and workplace issues. In an era when millennials are especially concerned for fairness and equality for all, respecting the religion and beliefs of employees is not only fair and good policy, but is also good for business.

At the event, CEOs, representatives of major companies, heads of trade and commerce organizations, and the media will be introduced to a nonpartisan corporate pledge on religious nondiscrimination and inclusion in the workplace. This new resource and its associated resource documents will align with core American values of religious freedom while creating a more inclusive work environment that leverages religious diversity.

Gordon H. Smith, President & CEO, National Assoc. of Broadcasters, will give the keynote* 

Other speakers include:

  • – Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum
  • – Richard T. Foltin, Director, National and Legislative Affairs in American Jewish Committee’s Office of Government and International Affairs
  • – Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
  • – Charles C. Haynes, Vice President Newseum Institute / Religious Freedom Center and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center
  • – Dwayne Leslie, Associate Director in the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Director of Legislative Affairs for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
  • – Daniel Mach, Director, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
  • – Zainab Al-Suwaij,Executive Director and a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC)

The event is co-hosted by the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

Gordon H. Smith
NAB President and CEO

Gordon H. Smith joined the National Association of Broadcasters as president and CEO in November 2009. Prior to joining NAB, he served as a two-term U.S. senator from Oregon and later as senior advisor in the Washington offices of Covington & Burling, LLP.

During his tenure in the U.S. Senate, Gordon’s committee assignments included the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the panel that oversees all broadcast-related legislation. He also served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gordon’s role on the Commerce Committee and as chairman of a Senate High Tech Task Force helped foster his interest in new media and new technology issues.

Born in Pendleton, Ore., Gordon attended college at Brigham Young University, received his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, and practiced law in New Mexico and Arizona before returning to Oregon to direct the family-owned Smith Frozen Foods business in Weston, Ore. Before his election to the U.S. Senate in 1996, he was elected to the Oregon State Senate, rising to the position of president of that body after only three years.

Gordon and his wife Sharon live in Bethesda, Md., and are the parents of three children and two grandchildren.