Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: October 2020

How to Welcome Faith-Oriented Diversity in a Workplace: A Better Way

27 Oct, 2020

Nov. 10th Faith & Belief ERGs Zoom Call

Topic: How to Welcome Faith-Oriented Diversity in a Workplace
Featuring: Kent Johnson, Former Senior Counsel – Texas Instruments; Senior Corporate Advisor – RFBF
Moderator: Paul Lambert, Senior Corporate Trainer – RFBF
When: Nov 10, 2020 – 12:00 noon Eastern Time (11am Central/9am Pacific)

Nov 10 2020 Powerpoint – How to Welcome Faith-oriented Workplace Diversity

A Better Way

Companies are increasingly intrigued or concerned about the growing emphasis on religious diversity at work. Increasingly, company leaders are realizing that, for many employees, it is their faith, more than any other single factor, that defines their core identity. When corporate culture constrains them from referring to their faith at work, they feel devalued, and forced “under cover.” They feel they can’t “be themselves.” They can become alienated from their work.

Yet, many business leaders have no idea how to approach the topic of faith and belief in the workplace. They wonder: What are the best practices in this area? What are pitfalls to avoid? What can/should be done?

We at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation have been working for years with companies that are trailblazers in religious diversity. We can report that there is a better way. Join us Dec. 10th to learn more!

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation host a monthly call with Fortune 500 companies in which they share how they’re becoming more faith-and-belief friendly. They are doing this in ways that not only allow each employee to be authentic to his/her own faith, but builds a workplace community where people’s various faiths and beliefs are welcome and viewed as a source of strength.

Previous calls featured insights from IntelAmerican ExpressAmerican AirlinesSalesforceDELL, PayPal and Texas Instruments. You can down load the Oct. 6th TI presentation here.

Authenticity, Transparency and Trust in Business – Kent Johnson from Religious Freedom & Business Foundation on Vimeo.

How to start a faith-oriented employee resource group (ERG) in your workplace

20 Oct, 2020

Nov. 10th Faith & Belief ERGs Zoom Call

Topic: How to get an ERG going in your company
Featuring: Kent Johnson, Former Senior Counsel – Texas Instruments; Senior Corporate Advisor – RFBF
Moderator: Paul Lambert, Senior Corporate Trainer – RFBF
When: Nov 10, 2020 – 12:00 noon Eastern Time (11am Central/9am Pacific)

Faith and Business

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation host a monthly call with Fortune 500 companies in which they share how they’re becoming more faith-and-belief friendly. They are doing this in ways that not only allow each employee to be authentic to his/her own faith, but builds a workplace community where people’s various faiths and beliefs are welcome and viewed as a source of strength.

Previous calls featured insights from IntelAmerican ExpressAmerican AirlinesSalesforceDELL and PayPal.

You can down load the Oct. 6th TI presentation here.

Faith & Belief ERG LinkedIn Group: Join Now

Religious Freedom Brings Peace, and Not Just World Peace

16 Oct, 2020

by Steve Hitz

Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in 36 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere.

The word “religion” in itself, brings with it a set of paradigms strangely positioned in our world. In its name, entire countries were established, wars fought, and persecutions beset to those who have tried to live into their own faith— regardless of the consequences.

Many of today’s youth declare, they are “spiritual but not religious,” or “spiritual but not affiliated.” Why do they say that? It is a popular phrase to self-identify a life stance regarding spirituality that takes issue with organized religion as the most effective way to further spiritual growth. And yet, while seeking their own spiritual path that may be different from the path of their parents, the ability to achieve this quest still requires religious liberty.

Of all freedoms desired and sought after, the right to guide one’s own spiritual beliefs without oppression from others in the same society is paramount. And yet, this freedom is infringed upon in todays “cancel culture” where those who disagree decide to eliminate each other from their lives. Righteous movements to put attention to social injustices are smothered by hatred and vitriol toward anyone who has a differing mind-set.

Contrast this with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jewish) with her colleague Antonin Scalia (Catholic) and their relationship. Even though they differed on many points of judicial considerations and even faith, nevertheless they became dear and trusted friends; they built a sweet and lasting relationship that respected each other’s views without diminishing their friendship. That is a lesson for all of us. The religious liberty they both practiced made each other more complete. Indeed, it brought peace on so many fronts.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Eulogy at Justice Scalia Memorial Service (C-SPAN)

Whether your spirituality is derived from a mountain top, a band, or steeped in tradition, religious liberty provides the freedom to live in your own path of fulfillment. I believe our society can take a few tips on how to live out religious liberty. It involves personal action and also a unified world view on the matter.

Religious liberty is the freedom to believe and exercise or act upon religious conscience without unnecessary interference by government. It is the freedom to practice one’s faith, or to practice no faith at all. While government needs to step in to resolve conflict between religious liberty and law, it must look out for any who would be detrimentally affected by their decisions. This can be tricky and is where the voice of the people largely guides the consequences of religious freedom.

In the United States, the first amendment to the constitution provides guidance on how this liberty is protected and assured. Note, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the first amendment, but is considered shorthand to say when church and state are separated, neither tries to interfere with the essential mission and work of the other. Someone’s religious liberty is denied, and everyone’s religious liberty is threatened, when government favors one faith over another. The fight for religious liberty is an effort to prevent government from doing what even God will not do; coerce faith.

So why is this so very important? Because without religious liberty and freedom, peace and choice are replaced by coercion and control. In all ages, this leads to war and destruction of the human family. Religious freedom is the seedbed for human rights and protects what makes us human. Religious liberty is not just an American value; it is much more than that. Some scholars argue that religious freedom is not a distinct right and conflate this right with other issues of the day. This conflation undermines the innate idea that religious freedom and liberty is a distinct right of every human being, which idea was codified as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. This document has been referenced by thousands seeking to advance this cause and right. Even so, we should remember that religious freedom was a human right eons before it was codified into any document.

In an effort to protect and preserve religious liberty, please consider the following ideas:

Practice Civil Discourse

Though we may have cultural differences, we ought not to have cultural wars. Everyone may have their own way of expressing, for example, the Golden Rule (treat others as you wish to be treated). Every faith has their own version that essentially inculcates peace, harmony, and human dignity. Islam states, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself” (The prophet Muhammad, Hadith), while Taoism states “Regard your own gain as your neighbors gain, and your neighbors loss as your own loss”( Tai Shank Kan Ying Phen). I can cite similar definitions from over two dozen different faith traditions. The point is, while there are many faith traditions and beliefs, the end result of respecting one another’s right to believe or not brings us all to a better understanding of how we achieve the same desired results though on different paths.

Respect Human Dignity

The beauty of religious freedom is that it provides a proper window to view others through. Instead of judging another’s beliefs, it promotes the idea that all are created equal and should be afforded without distinction or discrimination, all that their spiritual and religious hopes desire. The current world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said recently, “discrimination because of race is morally wrong and contrary to God’s plan of happiness for His children,” (Russell M. Nelson). Again, the human right of religious freedom affords everyone the right, without prejudice, to believe or not believe. Either way, it leads us to respect human dignity.

Use your voice with loving clarity, not anarchy and hatred

Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stated, “The remnants and vestiges of the current America will be taught in history classes, preserved in shadow box frames and ensconced in museums. Future generations will likely mourn our current America of 2017, 2018 and 2019, which has been fraught with polarization, whistle blowing, name calling, tweets, brutality and hatred. We are tired of the vitriol, caustic leadership and unapologetic indecencies and offenses. Our souls cannot relive any version of this again. We crave a better America. We have the collective capacity to build a better America. Each of us must commit that the better America of tomorrow begins with our individual actions — today.” She also said “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.”

Dallin H. Oaks, former Supreme Court Justice of the State of Utah, said “While we do have the right to peaceful protests in the United States, by law, protesters have no right to destroy, deface, or steal property or to undermine the government’s legitimate police powers. The constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy. All of us—police, protesters, supporters, and spectators—should understand the limits of our rights and the importance of our duties to stay within the boundaries of existing law. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” Redress of grievances by mobs is redress by illegal means.”

Our distinct right of religious liberty and freedom is better assured through civil discourse under the laws of the land; it is destroyed through anarchy, hatred and the “cancel culture.” Therefore, let your disputes be in the spirit of the framework of human dignity and civil discourse. Let your voice be that of loving clarity.

Pray for healing and understanding

Religious liberty affords us the opportunity to hope for brighter days in turbulent times; to go beyond conflict toward a time of calm and peace. Implementing these few suggestions will build a framework to promote, defend, and celebrate religious freedom. We are all individuals on a planet, trying to live out a peaceful life of meaning. Religious freedom can allow this life of peace of purpose to exist, advance, and prosper. It is worth praying for healing of hearts and for understanding as we strive to advance the wonderful causes such of our day, such as social justice.

Within the framework of civil discourse, respecting human dignity, and using our voice with loving clarity, we can achieve peace. Religious liberty is the seedbed for achieving the peace of which I speak.

Religious Freedom & Business Work Grows During Disruptive Coronavirus

13 Oct, 2020

Brian J. Grim

The coronavirus has not only claimed more than one million lives worldwide, it has disrupted what had come to be seen as the inevitable march forward of a globalized world. It has contributed fuel to nationalism that was already on the rise, making the path forward less predictable.

Times of disruption are almost always an opportunity for growth, according to the late Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen. So, what has been the experience of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation during this time? It has been indeed a time of growth because instead of just maintaining the projects we engaged with, we expanded initiatives aimed at promoting our core mission:

to educate the global business community, policymakers, non-government organizations and consumers about the positive power faith — and religious freedom for all — has on business and the economy.   

Four ways we have innovated during the coronavirus disruption are:

1. New Research and Writing

During the height of the shutdown period, we (Kent Johnson, Paul Lambert and I) compiled the first-ever book of voices from business leaders across Fortune 500 companies describing why bringing one’s whole self to work — faith and all — is a business imperative. The movement of toward faith-friendly workplaces is already underway, and we believe that the than 45 business leaders who share their own personal “why” will make this a paradigm shifting book. Stay tuned for more as the book moves towards publication in 2021.

2. Impacting New Audiences

Over the past two weeks we have described to new audiences the powerful ally business is in advancing religious freedom by allowing people to be their authentic selves in the workplace. This includes describing the faith and business movement to the following audiences:

— Dallas, TX: Interfaith Encounters on Religious Freedom, hosted by Dr. Robert Hunt of Southern Methodist University.
— Washington DC: J. Reuben Clark Law Society Religious Liberty Interns.
— Denver, CO: Launching Leaders Worldwide annual stakeholders meeting.
— Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum’s Sustainability Summit.

Happening today:
— New York, NY: Principled Entrepreneurship Conference sponsored by the Napa Institute and the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America.

And forthcoming, Nov. 9:
— Winnipeg, Canada: Entrepreneurial Leadership Network’s ELO Forum Online, Rethinking Diversity & Faith at Work

3. New alliances

Next month we’ll be announcing a new alliance to provide a brand new tool for corporate America to assess their level of religious diversity and inclusion.

4. New Technologies

Rather than wait for the world to go back to “normal,” we are embracing the new normal where major meetings and conferences will be online or a combination of virtual and in-person. Ww have invested in a software system that makes this possible starting in December – stay tuned!

Finally, as the the late Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen points out, disruption is an opportunity, but for those unwilling to adapt, it is a threat. Join us as we seize the opportunities ahead!

Is Disruption an Opportunity or a Threat? Clay Christensen Explains from Religious Freedom & Business Fnd on Vimeo.

Authenticity, Transparency and Trust in the Age of Covid-19

6 Oct, 2020

by Kent Johnson, Senior Corporate Advisor, RFBF

The Covid-19 crisis spotlights another threatening illness in companies and society today: The apparent lack of authenticity, transparency and trust.

Especially during this time when we’re barred from in-person interaction, coworkers need to go deeper; to get more personal, and more authentic. We need deep connections among people collaborating all over the world – including people who differ in their faiths and beliefs, but who share core personal motivations to promote honesty, compassion and unselfishness.  This need will remain after Covid-19 is defeated.

Faith-and-Belief-oriented Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have a lot to offer in this crisis. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s (RFBF’s) online conferences promote freedom of expression about faith and core values in the workplace. RFBF’s rigorous studies illustrate how this freedom enables human flourishing.  We celebrate companies that do this well, especially those that encourage employees to bring their full authentic selves to work, including their faith. And we see increasing evidence that companies are increasingly embracing faith-oriented ERGs as enormously beneficial for business – and for society at large.

We’re thankful that many of you are joining us in this hope-filled venture for a cure to the lack of authenticity, transparency and trust. And we are also pleased to announce the launch of the first-ever LinkedIn Group for Faith and Belief ERGs. Please join our LINKEDIN GROUP to share your thoughts and to stay in touch.

Watch: Kent relates how a faith-friendly environment at Texas Instruments brings out the best in employees as he introduces TI VP Ellen Barker at the 2020 Faith@Work National Conference.

Human flourishing and religious liberty: Evidence from over 150 countries

5 Oct, 2020

by Christos A. Makridis

My new study looks at the spatial and time series patterns of religious liberty across countries and estimates its effect on measures of human flourishing. The main findings are:

— First, while there are significant cross-country differences in religious liberty, it has declined in the past decade across countries, particularly among countries that rank higher in economic freedom.

— Second, countries with greater religious liberty nonetheless exhibit greater levels of economic freedom, particularly property rights.

— Third, using micro-data across over 150 countries in the world between 2006 and 2018, increases in religious freedom are associated with robust increases in measures of human flourishing even after controlling for time-invariant characteristics across space and time and a wide array of time-varying country-specific factors, such as economic activity and institutional quality.

— Fourth, these improvements in well-being are primarily driven by improvements in civil liberties, such as women empowerment and freedom of expression.

Tragically, roughly 80% of the world lives in a religiously restricted environment. Even with all the billions of dollars invested in development by the World Bank and other multilateral institutions, many countries around the world maintain repressive regimes that persecute religious minorities.

My newly-published research in PLOS ONE investigated the importance of religious liberty quantitatively, building upon an initial series of studies by Brian Grim. First, contrary to public opinion, the median country experienced a 13% decline in religious liberty between 2006 and 2018. Moreover, these declines were concentrated among countries with stronger property rights – for example, Western Democracies. In fact, it has declined by 35% in America between 1980 and 2018. Second, drawing on a sample of over 150 countries surveyed between 2006 and 2018, I found that increases in religious liberty lead to improvements in human flourishing – an effect concentrated among religious minorities. Third, I found that the reason for this stems from the positive impact of religious liberty on democratic governance, the process for civic engagement and women’s empowerment, and the likelihood for public and political corruption.

Although many critics who have sought to de-prioritize religious liberty have argued that countries that perform better economically and socially differ in other ways beyond their approach to religious liberty, this study is not subject to the same weaknesses. First, given the size of the sample and breadth of the data, I can control for standard measures of economic freedom and institutional governance. Second, because I observe over 150 countries for over a decade, my results are driven by comparisons of religious liberty in a country against itself in a future or previous date. In other words, I am not comparing Venezuela with the United States; rather, the U.S. in 2006 with the U.S. in 2010, and so on. In summary, the results underscore the importance of religious liberty for human flourishing, which is particularly timely in light of the persecution against religious minorities in China and elsewhere.

About: Christos A. Makridis Christos serves as a Senior Adviser in the National Artificial Intelligence Institute at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Research Professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business in Arizona State University, a Digital Fellow at the Initiative at the Digital Economy in the MIT Sloan School of Management, a Digital Fellow at the Digital Economy Lab in Stanford University, a Non-resident Fellow at the Institute for Religious Studies at Baylor University, a Senior Adviser at Gallup, a Non-resident Research Scientist at Datacamp, and a Visiting Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Christos previously served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers managing the cybersecurity, technology, and space activities, as a Non-resident Fellow at the Cyber Security Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and as an entrepreneur and adviser. Christos earned a dual Masters and PhDs in Economics and Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University.