Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


United Notwithstanding Differences: 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference

31 Aug, 2019

  • Freedom of Religion and Belief-focused Workshop
  • 2019 Civil Society Conference
  • Wednesday, August 28, 2019; 10 – 11:15 a.m.
  • Conference Room 155C; Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, UT

Description:  In any community, even in locations where there is an overwhelmingly dominant religious majority, there is a multiplicity of religious practices, thoughts and beliefs. As recent events have tragically attested, these differences often lead to strife, conflict and bloodshed.

Religious freedom lies at the core of the UDHR (Article 18) and even the U.S. Constitution.  Yet even in less severe cases, critics now openly ask whether religion belongs in public life at all. Some say that people of faith have no business speaking of their beliefs when addressing issues of public concern. Others condemn churches and religious organizations for expressing moral and religious perspectives on matters of public policy.

In other instances, however, those with different faiths look past their differences to their commonalities, seek to learn about and understand one another, and protect each other’s right of freedom of religion or belief (FORB). By comparing the two approaches, it is easy to see that respecting FORB builds an atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance, and inclusivity, and strengthens the fabric of the community.

This workshop will demonstrate the myriad benefits that come to a society from protecting FORB rights. It will go beyond the traditional look at how dialogue between different faiths contributes to more peaceful communities and societies, and show how respecting FORB advances a globally minded population, and encourages tolerance and inclusivity.

Panel Participants

Tomicah Tillemann is a Director at New America, a non-partisan think tank and civic incubator in Washington, DC. He works with organizations including the Rockefeller Foundation, State Department, Coca-Cola, and Harvard to deploy solutions to social impact challenges worldwide. He also chairs a range of civil society efforts, including the Responsible Asset Allocator Initiative and the Global Blockchain Business Council. He previously served at the State Department as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, leading a team that built out over 20 major initiatives in 55 countries. Tillemann chaired the State Department’s Global Philanthropy Working Group and Federal Advisory Committee on Civil Society. Tillemann joined the State Department in 2009 as Secretary Clinton’s speechwriter and collaborated with her on over 200 speeches. Tillemann’s other professional experience includes work with the White House, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reuters, and the World Bank.  

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University.  Professor Clark has written extensively and edited several books on comparative and U.S. law and religion issues and religion in post-Communist Europe. In her work with the Center, she has spoken at and organized over 100 academic conferences throughout the world. She has also testified before the U.S. Congress on religious freedom issues, taken part in drafting legal analyses of pending legislation affecting religious freedom in over a dozen countries, and has authored amicus briefs on religious freedom issues for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian Grim, Ph. D., is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a corporate trainer, and a leading scholar on international religious demography and the socio-economic impact of religious freedom.  He has extensive international experience and is a TEDx speaker and a speaker at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos. Brian’s recent research finds that religion contributes $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, more than the combined revenues of companies including Apple, Amazon and Google. He  is recent chair of the World Economic Forum’s faith council and he works closely with the United Nations Business for Peace platform. He is an affiliated scholar at Baylor University, Boston University, Georgetown University, and the Freedom Forum Institute. Brian is a Penn State alumnus and author of numerous works including The Price of Freedom Denied (Cambridge), World Religion Database (Brill), World’s Religions in Figures (Wiley) and Yearbook of International Religious Demography (Brill).

The Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen is the executive director of Parity, a NYC-based national nonprofit that works at the intersection of LGBTQ and faith. She speaks frequently about religious liberty for LGBTQ people, collaborative bridging across faith and LGBTQ issues, and is a contributor to the Sutherland Institute’s publication, Religious Liberty: Striving for Inclusion. In addition to 20 years of chaplaincy and ministry, she is the former executive director of OUTreach Resource Centers, the Utah Pride Center and the National Program Director for San Francisco State’s Family Acceptance Project.  Edmonds-Allen, who attended Western Theological Seminary and Eden Theological Seminary, is married and has four children.

David Litvack, Deputy Chief of Staff, Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office. David Litvack grew up in Minnesota, and moved to Utah when he was a sophomore in high school. He attended Westminster College, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and Psychology. He later attended the University of Chicago to attain his Masters in Social Sciences. Previously David was the Coordinator for the Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC), as the Operations Director for Colors of Success, and the Assistant Director for the National Conference for Community and Justice. David also served as a state legislator and minority leader in the Utah State House of Representatives from 2001 to 2012. In his spare time, David enjoys time with his family, running, and learning new things.

Panel Discussion Questions

Questions for Elizabeth Clark

  • — Traditionally, a single national religion in most parts of the world has been seen as an essential social glue. But it’s also clear that protecting Freedom of Religion and Belief benefits minority faiths.  To what extent does ensuring Freedom of Religion or Belief benefit the community at large?
  • — One common concern that some express in protecting Freedom of Religion and Belief is that it might undermine efforts to protect national security. I religion something that inflames conflict?  To what extend can protecting freedom of religion and belief help build an atmosphere of mutual respect?
  • — You’ve worked extensively on freedom of religion and belief issues throughout the world. How have you seen join work on freedom of religion and belief bring together communities and religious groups?

Questions for Tomicah Tillemann

  • — In your past life when you served in the State Department, you did a lot of work focused on protecting civic space. How does freedom of religion and belief relate to that broader agenda and the work of civil society as a whole?
  • — If governments want to engage diplomatically around freedom of religion and belief, what are some concrete steps they can take to advance this agenda? What are some of the best practices you’ve encountered in your work internationally?
  • — What is your advice to the community that cares about freedom of religion and belief on how to build coalitions in support of these issues? Are there compelling opportunities that we’re not pursuing?

Questions for Brian Grim

  • — Could you give us a broad overview of the economic impact of protecting freedom of religion as it relates to the US economy? (e.g., $1.2 trillion annually)
  • — How does freedom of religion and belief within a company (i.e., being a faith-friendly workplace) benefit a company’s bottom line? (e.g., Salesforce)
  • — How does this work overseas, especially in areas where freedom of religion or belief is more restricted? (e.g., ChinaLebanon)

Brian Grim also discussed the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s newest global study showing that countries with higher religious freedom also have more acceptance for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.

Questions for Rev. Marian Edmunds-Allen

  • — How might it be possible for religious liberty have a role in preserving civil liberties and to achieve “win-win” outcomes?
  • — How can we think about promoting religious liberty in ways that contribute to the common life of a divided society?
  • — How can religious liberty protections be good news not only for particular religious groups, but for citizens everywhere, regardless of religious belief?

Questions for David Litvack

  • — In your experience as a legislator who has worked on legislation focused on civil rights and equity in Utah, how has the work you’ve done been impacted by the conversation around religious freedom?
  • — What advice or insight would you provide religious communities, especially here in the US, as we navigate the political conversation around religious liberty and civil rights?
  • — What role do you think dialogue and shared experiences among different religious communities plays in protecting freedom of religion & beliefs while advancing civil rights and equity?