Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: June 2020

Business Leaders Advancing Interfaith Understanding and Peace

30 Jun, 2020

On 5 continents, in 5 minutes, 5 ways business leaders advance religious freedom, interfaith understanding & peace

One of the joys we have at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is to recognize business leaders who are making a positive impact on our world. Below, we introduce you to the work of five previous recipients of the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award. Let their work spark you to engage in this vital work.

See all awardees from 2016 and 2018. The 2020 awards will be given later this year.

Africa: The Sunshine Approach to Business

Middle East: A Foundation for All — Jobs

US: Advocating for the Persecuted

Australia: Positive Peace Index – Peace is Good for Business

China: Faith in Action to Help the Visually Impaired

July 7 Faith & Belief ERGs Zoom Call with Faithforce

25 Jun, 2020

Topic: Growing Faith-Oriented ERGs at Home and Abroad

  • What:  Community Call for Faith and Belief Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • Featuring:  Leaders from Salesforce’s Faithforce, Jitschak Rosenbloom (Global Growth Chair) and Michael Roberts (Cofounder and Global Vice President), will be sharing how they scaled Faithforce to 17 Salesforce hubs with local leadership across 5 continents as well as sharing what they learned during this process.
  • When:  Tuesday, July 7, 2020
  • Time:  11:30am EDT; 10:30am CDT; 08:30am PDT
  • Host:  Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF)
  • Moderator:  Kent Johnson
  • Registration (FREE) Required:  Register Now
  • Join Faith & Belief ERG LinkedIn Group:  Join Now
  • Questions?  Email RFBF

Note: Will not be recorded and is off the record (Chatham House Rule). For security, registration and password are required.

Faith-Oriented Employee Resource Groups are becoming a regular part of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Members of the Faithforce leadership team at Salesforce will share how Faithforce has grown in the US and worldwide on the July 7 call.

This is the fourth in a series of monthly interfaith ERG community calls. Previous calls featured insights from Intel, American Express, and American Airlines. The next call will be Tuesday, August 4, with DELL’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group hosting the call.

Sue Warnke, Salesforce Senior Director of Content & Communication Experience, President, Faithforce San Francisco, tells “The Faithforce Story” in her keynote address at the 2020 Faith@Work conference.


One of the newest and the fastest growing Equality Groups at Salesforce is Faithforce. Founded in 2017, Faithforce has over 2000 members in 12 regional hubs across 5 continents and is growing fast.

Faithforce is the interfaith employee resource group at Salesforce focused on celebrating, supporting and fostering understanding of our global faith and spiritual diversity through inclusive and educational events and initiatives.

Faithforce champions faith diversity & inclusion, interfaith & intersectional collaboration and allyship across the company. The goal of Faithforce is to cultivate a culture of empathy, respect and belonging at Salesforce for people from all faiths, backgrounds, traditions and worldviews. All are welcome.

Also view Sue Warnke’s comments at the Religious Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Symposium, Worldwide Headquarters of Texas Instruments, May 6, 2019, cosponsored by TI and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Please join our LINKEDIN GROUP to share your thoughts and to stay in touch.

Learn about RFBF’s Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index:

Religion and Artificial Intelligence

23 Jun, 2020

The Center for Religious Studies of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK-ISR) in Italy has produced a response paper on religion and artificial intelligence (AI) for the European Commission’s public consultation on AI.

Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president, Brian Grim, participated in the process. You can read an excerpt below and the full report here.

Religious or Belief Communities as Competent Interlocutors on Digital Innovation

The perspective and experience of religious or belief communities with regard to innovation should be taken into account in the framing of European policies on AI. Religious or belief communities are often portrayed as incapable or unwilling to innovate, and therefore to contribute to social innovation and to innovation in science and technology. Contrary to this stereotypical representation, the work at our Center shows that there are various examples of innovations, technological and otherwise, that have been adopted, shaped and developed by religious or belief communities, including social media, digital games, virtual reality technologies and smart community applications. We also acknowledge the impact of scientists and entrepreneurs whose work on digital transformation and AI is guided by religion or belief.

A more nuanced and context-sensitive approach to diverse religions or beliefs in society, as well as the acknowledgment of religious or belief communities as actual and potential participants in, and contributors to, innovation processes would clear the way for rightsizing (neither under- nor overemphasizing) attention to different religious or belief perspectives, experiences and concerns into AI policy debates.

We acknowledge that many of the issues that may arise from the use of AI technologies in relation to religion and belief – regarding both an ecosystem of excellence and an ecosystem of trust – are not in principle different from issues arising in other social or cultural contexts. At the same time, it is precisely because religion and belief are woven into the social fabric, and constantly interacting with its secular aspects, that we believe that investigating the implications of AI from the perspective of religious or belief communities may help understand the role and impact of AI across the wider society.

Religion and Innovation

23 Jun, 2020

The Center for Religious Studies of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK-ISR) in Italy is engaged in an ongoing study of the relationship between religion and innovation. As they consider this connection, they see it from three perspectives.

INNOVATION IN RELIGION: How is innovation being understood, experienced and practiced within religious traditions and communities of faith or belief?

RELIGION IN INNOVATION: How do religious traditions and communities of faith or belief contribute to innovation in the areas of culture and society, science and technology, politics and the law?

RELIGION OF INNOVATION: Has the vocabulary of innovation itself become a rhetorical vehicle for quasi-religious discourses? Has innovation itself turned into a belief system and become a sort of religion?

They make the following eleven recommendations for (a) researchers working on religion and/or innovation in the social sciences and humanities, economics or finance, as well as for (b) a wider range of societal actors, from communities of faith or belief and their leaders to governments and policy makers, from computer scientists to healthcare professionals, and from entrepreneurs and finance managers to journalists.

The recommendations provide sound principles of research in religion and innovation as well as guidelines for action that can benefit societal actors in their attempts to strengthen the interaction between religion and innovation.

Of particular note is recommendation #3, “Value diversity and freedom of religion or belief.”

Do not think of religion as a simple, homogeneous and easily describable phenomenon, but rather think of it as a diachronically and synchronically diversified phenomenon that resists essentialist definitions. Making an effort to think of and approach religious diversity as a resource rather than (just) as a problem may improve the effectiveness and inclusiveness of innovation processes in society, culture, science, and technology. In order for this to be possible, value and protect freedom of religion or belief for all.

See more at the Center for Religious Studies of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK-ISR).

Do you know someone of a different religion or belief than yours?

17 Jun, 2020

A new analysis by Pew Research Center finds that people who interact more with members of other religious groups also tend to have more favorable opinions toward other groups. It is also related to more positive attitudes about diversity.

The study also finds that across 11 emerging economies surveyed all around the world, there is a great deal of variation in terms of how often people interact with people of differing faiths (see chart). Key findings:

— Those who interact with people of other religious groups have more positive opinions of them

— Regularity of interaction with people of other religions varies widely

— People who interact more with those of other religious groups also tend to have more favorable opinions

A Business Doing Something About It

Mark Woerde, Founder of Havas Lemz and, believes he can make the world a better place through advertising. In 2018, his team advanced interfaith understanding and peace in a global campaign featuring the world’s most prominent religious leaders – from Pope Francis to Ayatollahs, Chief Rabbis and Hindu Swamis – making a joint appeal to “Make Friends Across Religions.”

The concept Mark and his team initiated and realized was: “The World’s Most Prominent Religious Leaders Make Historical Joint Appeal to Everyone: Make Friends Across Religions.” The message could also be seen via many news outlets around the world. The conservative estimate of the unique number of actual people who have seen the statement is 200 million and growing.

For their work, they received a Gold Medal at the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards in Seoul, Korea. The awards are given biannually in tandem with the Paralympic Games by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in cooperation with the Business for Peace platform of the UN Global Compact.

The #MakeFriends video is below.

Religious Implications of Supreme Court’s LGBT Decision

15 Jun, 2020

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC – OCT. 8, 2019 – Rally for LGBTQ rights outside Supreme Court as Justices hear oral arguments in three cases dealing with discrimination in the workplace because of sexual orientation.

by Brian J. Grim

The Supreme Court decided on Monday that U.S. civil rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The 6-3 decision extends federal workplace protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees nationwide.

As reported in the WSJ, only 22 states have passed laws that protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination. For workers in the states with no such laws, the ruling could make a big difference.

The ruling leaves unanswered the full impact on faith-based employers in the US and creates a need for more legal clarity on religious protections. However, as I explain below, data suggest that this new ruling need not undermine religious freedom but could result in higher religious freedom.

The concern for more clarity and reinforced protections for religious freedom is expressed eloquently by Hal Boyd and Robert Snyder is how to balance the areas where certain religious beliefs run counter to the law of the land:

As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority today in its 6-3 ruling protecting LGBTQ workers, “the promise of the free exercise of religion … lies at the heart of our pluralistic society.” This promise, however, requires concerted vigilance as new majorities and minorities emerge. For religious individuals and employers in this country, a number of questions remain.

Though well-intentioned, the ruling may unleash potential legal problems for faith-based organizations, including schools and universities. Its reasoning also raises substantial questions about entirely benign separations of sexes at work, such as with restrooms, locker rooms and so forth.

Truth, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once observed, “always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion.” But soon, Kierkegaard wrote, the strength of the minority view captures the majority.

The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance responded as follows:

The U.S. Supreme Court today extended federal employment protection to LGBT employees in a decision that affirms that important issues remain, including uncertainties for religious employers. The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance affirms extending federal protections to LGBT employees. Congress should act to resolve the uncertainties for religious employers by adopting H.R. 5331, known as the Fairness for All Act.

For reactions to the various legislation seeking to resolve the uncertainties, see here, and for a discussion of the institutional religious freedom concerns, see here.

Three bits of data can help in providing some perspective on these concerns.

First, it is a false dichotomy to put religious people on one side and LGBT people on the other side of the issue. The Pew Research Center’s data show that while LGBT people are not as religious as the general population, nearly one-in-two identify as Christian (see chart below). And further, and additional 11 percent identify with other faiths, meaning about 6-in-10 LGBT people identify with a religious faith.

While the Pew data are a bit dated now, a more recent survey of LGBT people had similar findings.

Second, by way of perspective, although the Supreme Court decision for the first time extends federal workplace protections to LGBT employees nationwide, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has already been interpreting the foundational Civil Rights law to include sexual orientation:

“Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” – EEOC Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices [bolded to highlight]

In fact, the EEOC has been tracking complaints of workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation since 2013, a practice that has continued during the Trump administration. And despite much attention being paid by corporate America to combat LGBT workplace discrimination, cases of LGBT discrimination have been on the rise.

But an important part of this context is that the EEOC also consistently tracks complaints of workplace discrimination on the basis of religion.  In FY 2019 there were 2,725 reported cases of religious discrimination compared with 1,868 reported cases of LGBT-based discrimination, as shown in the chart.

While complaints of religious discrimination outnumber those of sexual orientation, the trends are important to note. As the EEOC has paid attention to LGBT bias, the number of religiously biased cases has decreased, also as shown in the chart. This is an indication that concern over one form of discrimination may translate into an overall less discriminatory environment for other protected classes.

Third, there is evidence globally that this pattern of attention paid to LGBT discrimination coincides with decreased religious discrimination.

In 2019, as a social scientist studying the economic value of religious freedom worldwide (see my latest report), I took note of a new study showing that the economies of countries did better when they protected the rights of LGBT people to live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. That raised a question: If both are positively correlated with global economic growth, what is their relationship to each other?

The answer found by the study surprised many. When religious freedom is protected, LGBT people fare better, and vice versa: when LGBT people are protected, religious freedom increases.

It was surprising because “religious freedom” (in the U.S. at least) has become a divisive issue in, mostly centered on issues related to sexuality and marriage. One side sees religious freedom as a protection against having to accommodate things they cannot conscientiously support, e.g., same-sex marriage. The other side sees that argument as discriminatory and a violation of civil rights law especially now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the US.

You can find the complete study here. The main findings are: First, countries with higher levels of religious freedom have higher levels of LGBT rights. Or put another way, religious freedom fosters a positive environment for LGBT people. Second, support for LGBT rights is increasing in countries with higher levels of religious freedom. Third, religious freedom is likewise higher in countries where there is higher support for LGBT rights. And fourth, countries with low levels of social hostilities involving religion have higher support for LGBT rights.

While some may see the Supreme Court decision as threat to religious freedom, the data show the opposite: where one community is protected, both are better protected.

A Lesson on Religion & Race for Corporate America

9 Jun, 2020

Being Religiously Inclusive Promotes Racial and Broader Inclusion

As part of the initial launch of the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) analyzed the level of attention Fortune 100 companies place not only on religion, but also the following categories: race/ethnicity, women/gender, sexual orientation, veterans/military, dis/ability, age, and family (see “Topline for Diversity Other Than Religion“). RFBF calculated scores for each category by summing the mentions of each topic on the companies’ diversity and inclusion pages along with the weighted score for the number and diversity of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) related to each category.

We then calculate the average score for each category among the 48 companies that do not acknowledge religion on their diversity and inclusion or ERGs landing pages as well as for the 53 companies that have some acknowledgement of religion (including images or videos) on their diversity and inclusion or ERGs landing pages. This allows us to then calculate a “religion dividend” (an indication of the positive association of acknowledging religion with the company’s commitment to the other categories of diversity) by subtracting the average category score for the 48 companies not acknowledging religion from the average score for the 53 companies that have some acknowledgement of religion, as shown in the table below. Note that the range of diversity category scores reflect the amount of attention companies pay to each. Therefore, the better gauge of the religion dividend is the percentage increase in the category score.

The level of focus companies place on each of the seven diversity categories is higher among companies that acknowledge religion than among companies that do not. We refer to this positive association between companies that place focus on religious inclusion and their commitment to the other categories of diversity as a “religion dividend.” For example, companies focusing on religion score 69% higher on age inclusion, 63% higher on veterans/military inclusion, 60% higher on dis/ability inclusion, and 47% higher on race/ethnicity inclusion. Sizable “religion dividends” include companies acknowledging religion scoring 35% higher for women/gender inclusion and 31% higher on family inclusion. While the smallest religion dividend is for sexual orientation (scoring 4% higher), it is still notable that the relationship is positive. This also coincides with global RFBF research showing that religious freedom fosters a positive environment for LGBT people, and that LGBT rights are increasing in countries with higher levels of religious freedom.

Also see Racial Justice Requires Religious Freedom.

Racial Justice Requires Religious Freedom

9 Jun, 2020
Photo: Washington, DC, USA – June 5 2020: Street sign at the newly designated Black Lives Matter Plaza, with the steeple of St. John’s Episcopal Church in the background

by Brian J. Grim

Shock, outrage and calls for justice over the heartless murder of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer continue to grow across America and the world. Communities of faith are at the forefront of the growing movement to address racial prejudice. It is cutting across party lines, as was seen when Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined a march this weekend organized by Christian churches in the Washington area, carrying signs that based their call for racial equality in the Bible.

And as Reuters reports, it is cutting across faith lines too. Conservative and mainstream religious leaders are joining with Black churches, progressive Catholics and Protestants, Jewish synagogues and other faith groups in calling for police reforms and efforts to dismantle racism.

“We’re seeing it at the grassroots level. We’re seeing rabbis walking alongside Muslim leaders, walking alongside Catholic priests and religious sisters,” said Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic peace and justice group. “We are seeing that race cuts across all religious denominations.”

The flood of visible religious engagement included clergy from the Episcopal diocese of Washington DC distributing water in support of protesters demonstrating in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, directly across Lafayette Plaza from the White House. The church was damaged in the protests and, as the demonstrators were forcefully removed from the square, it became the site of a highly controversial Bible-in-hand photo op for President Trump.

Religious freedom’s clear role in this event is that the Episcopal leaders and many other faith leaders had the freedom to call out what they saw as co-opting religion for political purposes. The perceived political use of the Bible has even split Evangelicals, who are generally more supportive of Trump.

Religious freedom allows not only dissent by religious figures but also faith-based arguments to be heard in the public square, such as those made more than five decades ago by Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr.

Loving Your Enemies, MLK, Jr.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:43-45

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies”.  Some men have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible.  It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you?  Others, like the philosopher Nietzche, contend that Jesus’ exhortation to love one’s enemies is testimony to the fact that the Christian ethic is designed for the weak and cowardly, and not for the strong and courageous.  Jesus, they say, was an impractical idealist. …

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love an do that. Hate multiplies, hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says “Love your Enemies” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition.

(Read Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr.’s full sermon,  Love_Your_Enemies.)

Indeed, because the world is so religious — with more than 8-in-10 people following a faith — and because governments will always be tempted to curry their favor in ways that break the Golden Rule and the Rule of Loving Your Enemies — as shown in The Price of Freedom Denied — religious freedom ensures that religion has the power to resist co-optation and remain prophetic and pertinent.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Compilation: Love Your Enemies Speech and Tribute Footage

Also see A Lesson on Race & Religion for Corporate America.

There’s Hope

2 Jun, 2020

by Kent Johnson, RFBF Senior Corporate Advisor, comments at the start of the monthly Faith and Belief Employee Resource Group community call, June 2, 2020

There’s a light at the end of the long tunnel of cynicism and distrust that divides and enflames people today. Kent Johnson’s comments at the start of this month’s vignettes from American Airlines spotlight the significance of a workplace movement that’s bringing people together across the world. There’s hope.

Today we again spotlight and celebrate a change that’s gaining momentum worldwide: an appreciation of the significance of faith and belief in daily work.

Expressions of faith and belief are still considered inappropriate in many workplaces.  But the personal stories shared by leaders in this series illustrate how that is changing.

We don’t want anybody to miss the significance of this change. 

This isn’t JUST about making workplaces more welcoming, more inclusive, more comfortable and more vibrant; though it is that. It’s not JUST about strengthening profitability and recruitment and collaboration, or strengthening corporate cultures, though we’re hearing lots of stories about all of those.

There’s something even more powerful and life-changing going on here.

Our point is this:  As you hear these personal stories of faith and belief at work, consider their HEALING effect. ESPECIALLY as we see racial discord around the murder of George Floyd.

We’ve seen reconciliation take place across divides that are often presumed to be hostile.

  1. (1) Devout Muslims and Jews and atheists, connecting in meaningful friendships; and collaborating together in outreach to the needy.
  2. (2) Deep respect, kindness and admiration prevailing between LGBTQ people and advocates of traditional faiths.
  3. (3) Evangelical Christians, Hindus and Buddhists eagerly learning about one another’s beliefs and how those beliefs relate to the workplace.
  4. (4) Expressions of joy as people are acknowledged for who they truly are, beneath the surface.

This movement is at war with a prevailing culture of divisiveness.  It stands opposed to the cynicism and distrust that characterizes much of public dialogue today:

  • ⇒ The kind of cynicism that presumes that people who are “not like us” are driven by hateful motives.
  • ⇒ That “they” distrust us; and they consider themselves better than us.
  • ⇒ That I’d need to change before they’d consider me a worthwhile human being.

This movement for freedom of religion and belief is healing deep tears in the fabric of civility:

  • ⇒ rifts that are perpetrated when people are ignorant and suspicious of one another’s core values and beliefs.

There’s hope.

  • ⇒ This healing work is happening
  • ⇒ Right in our workplaces
  • ⇒ Thousands of times a day; in personal connections.
  • ⇒ We’re seeing examples right here.
  • ⇒ This is a significant development.

There’s Hope! from Religious Freedom & Business Foundation on Vimeo.