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Monthly Archives: February 2021

What Faith & Belief have to say about Artificial Intelligence

25 Feb, 2021

 

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

Today, business leaders are directing programmers and technologists to construct Artificial Intelligence systems that have global ethical impact. “AI” is enabling enormous medical, economic and social advances – and also enabling some alarming incivility and intolerance. Its impact on society is huge and expanding rapidly. Problem is: AI lacks the capacity for moral or spiritual discernment. We need perspectives of faith and belief in the rooms where AI decisions are being made. 

Like all transformative technologies, AI capabilities that were originally intended for good can be diverted to serve destructive purposes. Computer algorithms that were designed to relentlessly improve efficiency and short-term profitability, if not informed also by ethical considerations, lead to moral, ecological and social disaster. Some AI has been designed to steer popular search engines so that sensational and divisive content is amplified, in order to increase “hits” and advertising revenue at the expense of civility. AI is increasingly being leveraged to “automatically” monitor, target, investigate, censor and even punish people who make presumably undesirable statements, including expressions deemed by those in power to be “hate speech” or “fake news.” In some countries, government officials use AI to monitor and control publicly accessible discourse by broad categories of people whom they presume to be “suspect,” without any avenue for appeal. AI has been commandeered to enable hacking and theft, to perpetrate fraud and enable hate crimes. The threat to freedom and civility is real.

In an effort to advance thinking worldwide on how to navigate the emerging world of AI, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation enlisted several highly qualified experts on the topic of AI and Faith to speak at its second Faith@Work ERG Conference in February, 2021. At the end of this article there’s a link where you can learn more about the specific topics covered, and RFBF videos of these eminent speakers.

Our purpose in this conference (and this blog) is not to advocate any particular faith’s perspectives on the ethical ramifications of AI, but rather to draw attention to the work that’s already underway to connect faith to work in this crucial arena, and to encourage leaders throughout commerce to purposefully and systematically seek out and thoughtfully consider perspectives of religiously diverse people on the ethical implications of AI.

  • – Rear Admiral Margaret Grün Kibben, Chaplain of the US House of Representatives and a founding member of the influential group AI and Faith.
  • – Zahra Jamal, PhD, Associate Director of the Boniuk Institute at Rice University.
  • – Michael Paulus, PhD, Director and Associate Professor of Information Studies at Seattle Pacific University.
  • – Frank Torres, Director of Public Policy in Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI.
  • – David Brenner, Esq., Board Chair of the group AI and Faith, and contributor to a Statement of Principles on “How AI can listen to religion and get better.”
  • – Cory Andrew Labrecque, PhD, Director of the Master of Arts in Bioethics Program at the Center for Ethics at the University of Laval, and also a founding director of AI and Faith.
  • – Patricia Shaw, Esq., CEO and Founder of Beyond Reach Consulting Ltd, which supports organizations in the delivery of ‘ethics by design’ across the AI lifecycle.
  • – Nicoleta Acatrinei, PhD, an economist and Project Manager at Princeton University’s Faith and Work Initiative and also a founding member of AI and Faith.
  • – Paul Taylor, a founding member of AI and Faith and a teaching pastor and elder at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto with a degree in industrial engineering from Stanford, who blogs on tech and theology.
  • – Deborah Rundlett, DMin, founder of Poets & Prophets, a global community of change leaders.
  • – Michael Quinn, PhD, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Seattle University, Director of Seattle University’s Initiative in Ethics and Transformative Technologies and author of the seminal book Ethics for the Information Age.
  • – Yaqub Chaudhary, PhD, a former/recent Research Fellow in AI, Philosophy and Theology at Cambridge Muslim College who has researched AI, cognitive science and neuroscience in connection with Islamic conceptions.

We at RFBF hope these eminent speakers’ reflections will influence companies to think more deeply about the ramifications of their use of AI, and to purposefully and systematically enlist the perspectives of their religiously diverse workforces. We stand at a turning point for humanity. People’s faith and core beliefs carry much wisdom to help navigate the world of Artificial Intelligence. We should tap into that wisdom.

Check out the Sessions featuring the above.

The REDI Index in the News

20 Feb, 2021
Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index, 2021 








Others:

Sight Magazine: Intel leads tech-dominated list of religiously inclusive workplaces (22 February 2021)

AP News: Intel leads tech-dominated list of religiously inclusive workplaces (February 19, 2021)

Rocket News: Intel leads tech-dominated list of religiously inclusive workplaces – Posted by Editor (Feb 19, 2021)


 

Celebrating Intel and Texas Instruments

19 Feb, 2021

This week our blog celebrates America’s most religiously inclusive companies; those which have embraced faith and belief as an integral part of their larger diversity efforts. Bravo to all of the finalists, and especially to Intel and Texas Instruments #1 Worldwide!

Read the full story from Kathryn Post, Religion News Service.

If we want America to heal, it starts with forgiveness

12 Feb, 2021

We Must Replace Cancel Culture with Forgiveness Culture

By Steven A. Hitz

Steve Hitz is former CEO of U.S. Reports (now Affirm) and a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in 43 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere. This piece originally appeared in Deseret News on February 9, 2021.

Unity and trust cannot exist without forgiveness. If “unity” is a new buzz phrase to create a sense of peace and bridge gaps of misunderstanding, it cannot succeed without forgiveness.

Martin Luther King said, “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power of love.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 44).

Think about that next time you hear a leader preach unity.

I have voted for politicians who put values, including the values of love and unity, as their center piece. They campaigned about governance in a bi-partisan way. Then they took my money and immediately took their self-righteousness to a new level. I’m not talking about politics per se, no I’m speaking of the seeming inability of any of those we elect to represent the people whose hopes for a better life were pinned on that person’s ability to change the tide.

They call for unity; but they manufacture harm from hate. Because they can’t forgive, the walls of hate and division grow higher. What will it take for forgiveness to rise above partisanship and allow healing to take root?

Perhaps nothing models the antithesis of forgiveness more in our day than the “cancel culture.” Here, people and groups are erased because of conflicting ideologies. What could take us further from the “unity” we seek than to attempt to erase others voices and harm those with opposing views?

I once was involved in a legal matter that took seven years to resolve. My attorneys were confident of our position, and I spent half a million dollars based on their confidence. In the end, only the attorneys made money. I lost the battle. I was very bitter for years as the entire ordeal nearly cost me my livelihood and I certainly allowed it to destroy my peace for way too long. Thankfully, it didn’t tarnish my reputation or diminish my honor. I would later have nightmares of the ordeal. It didn’t happen overnight, but there came a time that I realized the only one that bitterness was hurting was myself.

Again, from Martin Luther King:

“The words ‘I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you’ve done’ never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a relationship. Likewise, we can never say, ‘I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.’ Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.” (Ibid., 45)

When I finally forgave the party who sued me, I also let the issues wash over me and decided that perhaps I had some culpability in the matter. I decided to give them props for thinking better than I did, for hiring better attorneys than I did, and eventually chalked it up to lessons learned the hard way. I really did like the opposing party; I just didn’t like the pain they were causing to me and my business. Still, they had a right to the path they took, and I had to respect that. When I finally forgave, I even wrote letters to the opposition seeking their reconciliation and forgiveness for any harm I had caused.

What good does it do to carry ranker and hate? Those we hold this animosity toward are seemingly not affected by our pain—so why should we keep building the wall? I will add parenthetically to what Dr. King said, that forgiveness is required of us because we depend on it. Because I have been forgiven of significant things, I cannot self-righteously judge another and hold that grudge forever. No one is without fault. No one lives a perfect life. Everyone needs second and third and fourth chances—regardless of your faith convictions or even none at all. It’s a part of human dignity. Akin to being willing to forgive, is gratitude for being forgiven ourselves; for being the ones who receive chances to right wrongs and move beyond our past. Gratitude is, quite simply, a contempt killer.

When I was visiting South Korea a couple of years ago for an international business and peace conference, the former Japanese Prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, stood before the Korean people and an audience of leaders from around the world and expressed a sincere apology for the atrocities of his nation on the Korean people during the years of war. He said, “We will say I’m sorry until there is no need to continue to say, ‘I’m sorry’.” Think of this, an apology that stands as long as it is needed to heal the wounds of the past (see video below).

In closing, Martin Luther King continued:

“….we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding. At times we are able to humiliate our worst enemy. Inevitably, his weak moments come and we are able to thrust in his side the spear of defeat. But this we must not do. Every word and deed must contribute to an understanding with the enemy and release those vast reservoirs of goodwill that have been blocked by impenetrable walls of hate.” (Ibid., 46)

We can’t wait decades before apologies are extended and forgiveness is given and accepted. Choosing to cancel someone instead of forgiving does not remedy, it only hurts – both sides. Instead, we can model the practice of forgiveness NOW and we need look only as far as Dr. King for this modeling.

If forgiveness spawns trust, then let’s all take the position that forgiveness is the only path forward, even though we might feel WE have been wronged.

There’s Hope! Authentic Connection is on the Move!

12 Feb, 2021

There’s Hope! Authentic Connection is on the Move!

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

A recent conference of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation featured hugely diverse presenters and audience members, focused on advancing “Authenticity and Connection” in workplaces worldwide.

Speakers included C-suite executives and members of the “rank and file” of some of the world’s largest and most influential companies, and small companies; Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Humanists, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Evangelical Christians and “Nones,” among others. There were chaplains and other clergy representing a wide spectrum of belief systems. Legal experts, philosophers, poets, HR experts, ethics experts, military leaders, business school deans and other educators… all gathered to consider how freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) in our increasingly diverse workforces can enable deep, authentic and warm connections.

A whole lot of amazing and compelling data and information was shared in this three-day conference, and it’ll take time to digest it and consider the implications, including reports about positive impact of FoRB on the “three R’s” of Recruitment, Retention and Revenues. But most impactful (I think) were the many personal stories of warm, trusting friendships that are being forged across deep cultural, racial, religious, ideological and even political divides.

We heard of tears, earned respect, warmed hearts, and unlikely connections… many unlikely connections, made without compromising individuals’ core values and beliefs. We heard of many “aha” moments. We heard how FoRB is emboldening companies’ “rank and file” to appropriately speak truth to power… and influencing “bosses” to listen and invite new perspectives. FoRB is affirming human connectedness everywhere.

These weren’t exceptional instances involving just a few.

We learned that this spirit of authenticity and connection is on the move in companies like Intel Corporation and Texas Instruments, tied for first place honors in the 2021 REDI index. As they create, make and market the useful products and services for which they’re best known, companies like these also offer a compelling cultural “product”, a way of relating that ennobles humanity. This is “catching.” It’s inspirational.

The conference featured so many, representing such a broad spectrum of beliefs and areas of expertise, because the widespread ills of incivility, divisiveness and distrust can only be surmounted by purposeful efforts by many people, coming at it from all directions, through all disciplines.

At the close of the conference we asked participants and attendees to pause and reflect on what we’d all heard; to reflect personally, in their own hearts, on the WHY behind their work and their workplace relationships, and how their faith and core principles guide their work. Participants encouraged each other to listen deeply and respectfully to people who have beliefs that differ from their own; to speak authentically and thoughtfully to others about the things that matter to them. To be purposeful, and bold – and sensitive. And then to be accountable to their own expressed beliefs.

In the end, I think there was wide consensus on this: Though the business case for action to embrace religious diversity and inclusion is strong, it’s not JUST about the three Rs: Recruitment, Retention and Revenues. This is RIGHT. We’re at our best when we purposefully seek to engage from our hearts and souls on this deeper level.

Many of us left the conference with a fresh sense of optimism and hope. The world needs the authenticity and connection that we’ve seen in this conference. This MATTERS. And it’s possible.

In future weeks we’ll begin to unpack some of the specific learnings from the conference. As always, we invite your input.

Tech Companies Are Most Religiously Inclusive American Workplaces

9 Feb, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Intel and Texas Instruments score highest on workplace religious inclusion among America’s 200 largest companies

Leaders from both companies as well as from Google, American Airlines, American Express, Tyson Foods, Dell Technologies, PayPal and Salesforce headline the second annual national Faith@Work conference, beginning today at 3pm EST.

(Washington DC, Feb. 9, 2021) – Intel and Texas Instruments are the most faith-and-belief friendly corporate workplaces among the 200 largest companies in America as measured by the 2021 Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Index.

Also among the top 100 companies on the U.S. Fortune 500 list, American Airlines, American Express, Google, Tyson Foods, Dell Technologies, Target, Cigna and Facebook take the second through ninth spots with Fannie Mae and Apple tying for the tenth spot to round out the top companies.

Texas Instruments takes the top spot among the Fortune 200 companies for including faith and belief as part of their overall efforts to support equality and inclusion in their workplace, with PayPal and Salesforce also earning very high marks. Aramark and Netflix have the next highest scores among the Fortune 200 group of companies.

This is the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s (RFBF) second annual benchmark assessment of the state of corporate America’s inclusion of religion as an integral part of its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives (see 2020 report and news coverage).

Companies earn scores on the REDI Index based on a careful content analysis of faith-related information on the company’s main diversity and inclusion web landing page – the public face of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. This includes weighted scores for the number and variety of faith-and belief-based Employee Resource Groups (including atheist/agnostic ERGs) mentioned on the company’s website, as well as weighted scores for public training programs they offer to help other companies embrace workplace religious inclusion. (See Methodology and Topline for fuller discussion and notes on the development of the index.)


Top scoring companies on the REDI Index will be honored today at the Second National Faith@Work Employee Resource Group (ERG) Conference, which will bring together representatives of Fortune 500 companies who are members of faith-and-belief ERGs Feb. 9-11, 2021.

Tomas Flier, Google’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead, will deliver a keynote presentation at the conference hosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) and the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

See full program

Major conference sponsors include American Airlines, PayPal, Texas Instruments, Dell Technologies, the Global Leadership Network and the BYU Marriott School of Business. The conference supports the growing movement of top companies that are making their workplaces religiously inclusive, and is a national convening point for workplace chaplains and those interested in faith, ethics and technology.

To register for the 2nd National Faith@Work ERG Conference, visitL

MEDIA: For more information, to attend the conference, or to schedule an interview, contact:

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The Power of “Ordinary Workers” Applying their Core Beliefs

6 Feb, 2021

The Power of “Ordinary Workers” Applying their Core Beliefs

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

As the world spirals deeper into cynicism, divisiveness and distrust, many are wondering: “I’m just an ordinary worker; down in the org chart; what can I do about it?

You can do a lot.

It only takes a handful of courageous employees to exert a significant positive impact on a company’s culture.  We’ve seen this play out in company after company… large and small.  In the end, what really carries the day is the heart and soul of the people at the “grassroots” – the ordinary workers.

We compliance lawyers wonder:  Why didn’t somebody at Volkswagen raise serious questions early on about the “cheater devices” being installed to fraudulently defeat diesel emissions tests? How did that blatant cheating continue over 9 years without someone – at some level – blowing the whistle?  If but one employee – over all those years – had visibly pressed the obvious question, “What is this device FOR?” VW could’ve avoided billions in reparations and fines, huge reputational damage and untold havoc on many employees’ lives.

In a similar vein, many questions should be asked.  How is it possible for a “boss” to get away with denigrating women in the workplace, day after day, month after month?  How can a manufacturer gloss over a known safety risk?  How can a company persist in muzzling a whole class of employees that yearns to do the right thing?…

Understandably, the main focus in many of these cases is on the behaviors and words (or silence) of the few leaders at the top.  They’re the ones considered responsible for company culture.  The high profile “big fish” is the most attractive target for prosecution and blame.  Makes sense. But I’d submit (from experience) that the heart of an organization rests largely with its rank-and-file.  You. 

Often, top managers are less able than the common worker to truly impact the culture of the company, especially on “softer” ideological topics like ethics and inclusion.  People expect bosses to give “lip service” to ethical considerations.  Rightly or mistakenly, workers often think “that’s what the top brass need to say to cover themselves; but the only thing they really care about is achieving measurable short term profit goals; and they want us to get there, whatever it takes.”  Especially in today’s cynical culture, people are apt to wonder: Did our leader do the “right” thing because she really believes it’s right, or just to avoid the penalty if she got caught? 

Authenticity of company leaders is certainly important.  Those in power should be among the first to speak out.  But in today’s cynical workplace, leaders’ credibility is often suspect. My point is that the entire company’s authentic commitment to the company’s stated values and principles is fundamentally put to the test when an “ordinary worker” courageously points out behavior that contradicts those values.  Here are two of the ways this scenario can play out:

  • — If the worker is publicly commended or rewarded for raising the issue, a culture of integrity can be strengthened. This scenario demonstrates that workers’ integrity and caring are valued. (Even then, skeptics may think management was forced against its will to commend the whistleblower).

  • — If a legitimate concern is ignored and the worker is demoted or fired for raising it, the objection can have an even more powerful positive impact. Others are inspired by the courageous ordinary worker.  The fact that the stakes are high adds weight to the words and actions of the ordinary worker.  The risk authenticates the worker’s heartfelt commitment to the core principles.  When authentic commitment is evident, it’s transformative.

Of course, day-to-day work issues aren’t always so clearly “right” or “wrong.”  It often turns out, after respectful and diligent follow up, that what appeared to be a violation of the company’s core values has a legitimate explanation. Wherever it’s feasible to do so, that explanation should be clearly explained to all those involved, so they aren’t crushed under the misimpression that there may have been a cover-up.

In each of these situations, the courage and virtuous intent of an ordinary worker is a powerful influence for institutional change of heart.  Sincere, heart-driven integrity is infectious.  Over time, the brave and respectful questions from “ordinary workers” make truly illicit behavior very uncomfortable. In all but the most unscrupulously-run companies, it only takes a few vocal “ordinary workers” for integrity to prevail.  And when this works, workers feel personally affirmed, encouraged and fully engaged.

Some readers are saying, “You’re urging those without power to take significant risks with their careers!”  To that, I say… well… yes, I am.  But by so doing, I’m not letting management off the hook.  When you take these bold steps, you’ll present opportunities for management to demonstrate their genuine commitment as well.  In many, many cases, you’ll find that integrity is appreciated at the top.  Most significantly in your life, you’ll be acting in accord with your own core personal values.  That speaks volumes.  That inspires. That transforms entire cultures.

We compliance lawyers often argue (of course we do) over what’s the best training to influence people to “do the right thing even when nobody’s looking.”  To my thinking, the best training encourages workers to act according to the core values and beliefs that they personally aspire to live out.  Frankly, for many, it’s demoralizing to work in corporate cultures that frown on authentic and open discussion of how worker’s heartfelt principles relate to their work.

So, here’s the “call to action”:

  • — If you’re in a position to influence company policy, please consider joining the growing number of major companies that have embraced religious diversity and inclusion. Encourage your people (those who may be willing to do so) to talk with one another about their core values and beliefs, and where they’re drawn from.  Sincerely encourage them to follow through.

  • — If you’re an “ordinary worker,” please don’t just wait for your “bosses” to do something. If you’re not already doing so, start thinking about and talking with colleagues who are willing to listen, about how your core values and beliefs impact your work. Encourage them, and learn from them.  Stand up.  And follow through in accordance with your beliefs.

The “ordinary worker” MATTERS.  You can do this.  You can do a lot.

Global Press Advisory

4 Feb, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 4, 2021

Workplace Religious Inclusion Highlighted in 2nd Annual Conference

Hosted by Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Busch School of Business, Conference Highlights Successes at Google and new EEOC Guidelines

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) The Second National Faith@Work Employee Resource Group (ERG) Conference will bring together representatives of Fortune 500 companies who are members of faith-and-belief ERGs Feb. 9-11, 2021. The conference supports the growing movement of top companies that are making their workplaces religiously inclusive, and is a national convening point for workplace chaplains and those interested in faith, ethics and technology.

The conference, hosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., will be held virtually this year. It features best practices on religious inclusion in the workplace, shared by representatives of organizations including: the Intel Corporation, American Express, Tyson Foods, Accenture, Salesforce, SAP, and Equinix.

Sharon Fast Gustafson, general counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), will deliver a keynote presentation EEOC’s General Counsel, will deliver a keynote presentation on why religious nondiscrimination is good for business. “We are honored to have General Counsel Gustafson participate in the Faith@Work conference. It is a wonderful opportunity for companies to hear directly from the EEOC General Counsel on the legal obligations relating to religious nondiscrimination and accommodation in the workplace,” says Andrew Abela, dean of the business school.

Tomas Flier, Google’s Global Diversity and Inclusion lead, will deliver a keynote presentation on how building a culture of belonging for all at Google includes religious inclusion. At the conference, Flier will premier Google’s Inter Belief Network video. “We are excited to hear from Mr. Flier how religious inclusion benefits not only Google’s global workforce but also all of us who rely on the many innovative products and services provided by Google every day,” says Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Other speakers include:

  • Juliet Funt, CEO of WhiteSpace at Work, on banishing the thieves of productivity and recovering time to be creative.
  • Rear Admiral (ret.) Margaret Grun Kibben, chaplain of the US House of Representatives and retired chief of chaplains for the US Navy and Marine Corp, will discuss with Chaplain Karen Diefendorf (Tyson Foods) and Chaplain and Chief Flight Controller Fr. Greg McBrayer (American Airlines) how workplaces can build civility despite the challenges of a pandemic and social and political unrest.

The conference also features panels on faith, ethics and technology, and remarks by Frank Torres, director of public policy in Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI, part of the company’s Technology and Corporate Responsibility group.

The conference will kick off with the results of the Second Annual Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Index being revealed. The REDI Index is the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s annual benchmark of the state of Corporate America’s inclusion of religion as an integral part of its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Major conference sponsors include American Airlines, PayPal, Texas Instruments, Dell Technologies, the Global Leadership Network and the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Click here to register for the 2nd National Faith@Work ERG Conference.

MEDIA: For more information, to attend the conference, or to schedule an interview, For Press Inquiries, contact: