Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: February 2017

Statistics on how religious literacy is important for business

15 Feb, 2017

by Brian Grim

It just makes sense. If people are able to bring their “full selves” into the workplace without fear of being ridiculed or discriminated against for who they are or what they believe, then that’s good for business.

The most successful businesses encourage an environment in which employees can bring their “full self” to work. Employees need to feel comfortable being who they are in the workplace, including being true to their core identity and beliefs. That includes recognizing and respecting an employee’s religion and its practice.

This has a very clear action item for businesses. Companies need to be religiously literate if they hope to recruit and retain top talent. 

In today’s increasingly more competitive business environment, companies will need to draw upon the talent and experience of every employee. They can’t afford to leave anyone out. If they exclude or alienate someone for reasons having nothing to do with a person’s ability to do the job, they might also be excluding the next great business solution or the next great product idea. The very thing a company might need for its success. At the very least, they’ll be missing out on lots of really great talent.

And as companies become increasingly more global, they’ll need employees who reflect the increasing diversity of their customers. They’ll need employees who can relate to the daily experience of customers and who can see the customer point of view. For potentially billions of customers, religious belief and practice are a part of daily life. Having employees who understand that will not only help companies avoid costly missteps, it will also help companies develop products and services better tailed to customer needs. That’s an essential part of being competitive.

Indeed, companies that support religious diversity and freedom in the workplace sends two clear messages to current and prospective employees: (1) You can work here without changing who you are; and (2) the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others, and that’s good for the business of all.

Here are some statistics that demonstrate the need for a company to have religious literacy.

Statistic 1: Religion is Really, Really Growing

For most of the world, religion is a key identifier. In an award-winning article in Demographic Research, my colleagues and I recently demonstrated that not only is the vast majority of the world religions, but their numbers are projected to outgrow the religiously unaffiliated population by a factor of 23 over the coming decades.

This research is based on an analysis of more than 2,500 data sources.

The study and its connected Pew Research Center report show that between 2010 and 2050, the growth of religious populations worldwide is projected to be 23 times larger than the growth of religiously unaffiliated populations.

During this period, the number of people affiliated with a religion is expected to grow by 2.3 billion, from 5.8 billion in 2010 to 8.1 billion in 2050.

By contrast, the number of people unaffiliated with any religion (including those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” as well as self-identifying agnostics and atheists) is projected to increase by only 0.1 billion, from 1.13 billion in 2010 to 1.23 billion in 2050.

The median age of religiously affiliated women is six years younger than unaffiliated women. The 2010-15 Total Fertility Rate for those with a religious affiliation is 2.59 children per woman, nearly a full child higher than the rate for the unaffiliated (1.65 children per woman).

Conclusion: The religiously unaffiliated are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population in the decades ahead because their net growth through religious switching will be more than offset by higher childbearing among the younger affiliated population.

Of course, all projections of future trends must be taken with a note of caution. Indeed, unforeseen events will yield unpredictable consequences. With this caution in mind, we believe that demographic projections are of particular value because, as Voltaire observed, “the present is [literally] pregnant with the future.”

Statistic 2: Religion is Tied to Economic Changes Business Must Keep Up With

Dramatic religious and economic shifts will impact our planet in the decades ahead, according to a 2015 study by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Changing religion, changing economies. The study provides insights into the global marketplace’s growing religious diversity by linking the best available demographic and economic data.

The growth of religious populations has implications for how the world’s wealth will be spread about. The economic transformations of China and India are common knowledge. But, what is less well known is that the five leading economies of 2050 are projected to represent one of the most religiously diverse groupings in recent memory. For instance, today, seven of the G8 nations have Christian-majority populations. But by 2050 only one of the five leading economies is projected to have a majority Christian population – the United States. The other mega economies in 2050 are projected to include a country with a Hindu majority (India), a Muslim majority (Indonesia), and two with exceptionally high levels of religious diversity (China and Japan).

As religious diversity and religious populations grow, so does their potential impact, creating new challenges and opportunities for societies, governments and economies. This report is part of a “toolkit” developed by members of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith, and we thank the members for their input. The 2014-2016 Role of Faith Global Agenda Council sought to increase “religious literacy” – including awareness and understanding of the positive impact of the role of faith in various sectors – in our complex world.

Statistic 3: Surveys Show Religious Majorities and Minorities Feel Excluded

A 2013 Tanenbaum Survey of American Workers and Religion concluded that religion is highly relevant in the workplace. The issues include not only whether a person feels unfairly treated on the basis of his or her beliefs – whether religious or non-religious – but also tensions around religion and religious misunderstandings in our diversifying global workplaces.

The survey found that people of all faiths, including those who belong to the “majority,” have religious needs that need to be addressed in the workplace. The survey concludes that “the accommodation mindset can be just as important to the man who is a white evangelical Protestant as it is to the woman who is Muslim or to others who follow a minority belief tradition …” Main findings from the study include:

  • • One-third of respondents have seen incidents of religious bias in their workplaces or have personally experienced them.
  • • Half of non-Christians say that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.
  • • More than half of American workers believe that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims.
  • • Nearly 6-in-10 atheists believe that people look down on their beliefs, as do nearly one-third of white evangelical Protestants and non-Christian religious workers.

The survey also concludes that when employers adopt an accommodation mindset and implement policies addressing religious diversity of all kinds, their employees experience higher job satisfaction than workers whose employers do not. Findings include

  • • Employees at companies that provide flexible hours for religious observance are more than twice as likely to say that they look forward to coming to work.
  • • 4-in-10 employees at companies without clear processes for handling employee complaints are looking for a new job, compared to 2-in-10 employees at companies with these processes.
  • • When companies have policies on religious discrimination, their employees are less likely to be looking for a new job.
  • • Regardless of a company’s size, workers whose companies offer education programs about religious diversity and flexibility for religious practice report higher job satisfaction than workers in companies that do not.

Both the survey and Tanenbaum’s ongoing benchmarking research show that while it is important to have policies, it is equally important to communicate those policies to your workforce.

The Trump Effect

4 Feb, 2017

by Brian J. Grim

President Trump’s executive order barring travelers and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries was halted on Friday by U.S. District Judge James Robart.

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general filed the suit in Robart’s court, arguing that the travel ban significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination on the basis of religion, specifically targeting Islam.

As Trump’s controversial order plays out in the courts, it is important to consider the unintended economic and security effects of increasing regulations on religion.


Extensive research shows that increased government regulation of religion leads to more violence and less safety.

In The Price of Freedom Denied, Roger Finke and I demonstrate that the most convenient action, and often the one with public support, is to restrict the actions of the religions perceived to threaten the state, the dominant religion, or both.

Indeed, while governments typically view religious regulation as a necessity to maintain order and reduce potential violence, the irony is that more regulation leads to increased persecution, which means less order and more violence, as shown by the data.

These results should not surprise any savvy observer familiar with the benefits of religious liberty protections in the United States and other countries. The history of modern Japan provides an excellent case study of these dynamics. Before World War II, the government favored Shintoism, the traditional Japanese religion, at the expense of its citizens who followed “foreign” religions. The ruling party’s political rhetoric not only demonized all other religions—it coopted Shintoism into the service of an imperial war machine.

By contrast, since World War II the Japanese people have enjoyed robust protections for religious freedom. And violent religious persecution has been extremely rare. When Japan has experienced religion-motivated terrorism, it has upheld its religious liberty policy while vigorously pursuing all terrorists.

Even after members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious group committed deadly sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, Japan resisted placing restrictions on the entire religion. Rather than creating new domestic enemies and “martyrs,” Japan eliminated the violent and criminal elements within Aum by following the rule of law and ensuring equal protection and freedom to the non-violent.

Turning to the United States, Pew Research Center data illustrates the same dynamics happening here as seen around the globe. By 2010, government restrictions on religion in the United States had for the first time increased from “low” to “moderate.” Not surprisingly, the incidence of social hostilities involving religion in the United States during the same period increased from “low” to “moderate.” Examples range from openly anti-religious opposition to building churches, synagogues, and mosques to shootings and other acts of violence.

The data are abundantly clear — security and stability result from religious freedom. When freedom is protected for all religions equally, leaders in government and society are far less likely to choose words and deeds that add to religious animosity and divisions. This prevents the cycles of rising religious tensions and violence playing out in nations across the globe today.


As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, according to a 2014 study I co-authored with Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder of Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

We found that religious freedom is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth (see press release). The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences.

The study also examines and finds a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.

One reason religious freedom adds to the economic vibrancy of a country is that it sets people of faith free to do good, to innovate, and the have the desire to contribute socially and economically to the national good.

This is evident in the U.S. economy, where religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value, according to a 2016 study Melissa Grim and I published also in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.

— That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries.

— It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.

— And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies.

So – you might say – that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy, much of it thanks to the freedom people of faith have to exercise their religion in community with others.


Religious freedoms are fragile because restrictions placed on minority religions can easily be unseen, ignored, or even supported by those in the majority. Like any liberty, religious freedoms force those in power to protect the rights of minorities, even when the majority does not agree. Enforcing this liberty comes with a price, but the price of denying the freedom is far higher.

Faith by the Numbers- The Socio-economic Impact of Religion in the U.S. from Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.