Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: March 2021

The Destructiveness of Distrust – And How Religious Freedom Can Help

31 Mar, 2021

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

Distrust eviscerates our companies’ efficiency and profitability; but its most damaging effects are in the way it tears at the hearts and souls of people. Faith and belief has much to offer to address the destructiveness of distrust.

We worry:

  • — Did our suppliers exaggerate the capabilities of their offerings? Will they cheat us when it seems they can get away with it?

  • — Did our coworkers cut corners when nobody was looking? Will they unfairly criticize our work or grab unwarranted credit for our labor in order to advance their own standing?

  • — Are our leaders and colleagues influenced more by their biases and self-interest than by facts and principles of fairness?

To be sure, distrust is sometimes founded on concerns about facts such as a company’s lack of knowledge or ability to perform. But, very often, distrust relates to matters of the heart… (indeed – bear with me – matters that are profoundly spiritual). Distrust is often founded on a fear or presumption that “they” don’t really care about “me.” They don’t care that their missteps might cause trouble for others. Consequently, I can’t count on them to fix things that may go wrong, and I worry that they may renege on their commitments, or that they’ll take unfair advantage of my dependence on them when they can get away with doing so.

The tenets of our employees’ faiths and core beliefs provide a rich trove of wisdom and motivation for earning and recovering trust. This blog installment provides just a cursory sampling of some of that wisdom. Much, much more can be said.

Princeton’s David W. Miller, PhD and Michael J. Thate, PhD recently published a thought-provoking and practical piece – “Towards a Restoration of Trust” – which spotlights 11 themes from the “Abrahamic” faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. [I’d submit that similar themes can be found in nearly all religions.] They wrestled with the question: “Can a company restore trust with its customers, regulators, and other stakeholders— especially if the organization has a product that has caused damage and a checkered history that is etched in people’s minds and experiences?”

Five of the faith-related themes Miller and Thate identified are bolded below. (I’ve added emphasis and a few concise reflections for our purposes). Their entire article is worth reading.

  1. (1) “Practices of transparency which enact and communicate system-wide contrition while also inviting offended parties back into relationship.” Humble, sincere and open acknowledgement of mistakes and wrongdoing is a strong step toward reconciliation and trust. This envisions a corporate culture that encourages both corporate and personal turning from past errant behavior, and commitment going forward to act differently and to be different in the future.

  2. (2) “Practices of care for self and other.” This theme echoes the principle, shared by nearly all faiths, that it is “right” to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.

  3. (3) “… a move away from a contractual mindset toward a covenantal mindset.” This theme highlights the benefits when trustworthy behaviors are motivated by heartfelt values and beliefs, and not motivated solely by pressure to conform to externally-imposed rules.

  4. (4) “Honesty about an institution’s ideals.” In this, the writers advocate a purposeful effort to shape corporate culture so that it transparently articulates its core ideals, consistently seeks to conform their behaviors to those ideals, and rejects hypocrisy of all kinds.

  5. (5) “…account[ing] for institutional and personal fallibility. This point reflects on the need – acknowledged by many faiths – for deep institutional and personal humility; and for means of accountability and appropriate forgiveness.

As a compliance lawyer, I often reflect on what it would take for an organization to earn and keep trust after a “fall,” whether it takes the form of fraud, or neglect, or any other act or omission involving moral turpitude. Clearly, a reputation for trustworthiness is not achieved merely by managing an organization’s public “image.” It’s more than making the company look good. In the short term, perhaps a reputation can be buffed up by a public relations campaign… but without something deeper, the “image fix” inevitably falters. True trustworthiness is a profoundly personal and spiritual matter.

The world yearns for business relationships characterized by deep trust; for employees and leaders who can be relied upon to do the right thing when nobody’s looking; for business partners they can count on when difficulties arise; for organizations and people who truly care about the needs of their customers and other stakeholders.

No organization is perfect. We all need a way to recover lost trust. Our diverse faith traditions – and the core values of atheists – have much to offer on this topic, if only we will open the door for them to speak… and if only we will listen to one another. We at the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation hope you will open that door to dialogue about faith and belief; and in so doing, that you will help address the world’s dire need for authenticity, connection and trustworthiness.

It’s possible to overcome distrust. It’s happening. Come on board.

Can women succeed where men cannot?

31 Mar, 2021

Yes, women are simultaneously advancing religious freedom and women’s empowerment

The power women bring to advancing freedom of religion, belief and conscience worldwide is part of the game-changing initiatives that RFBF supports. This ranges from the new women-led campaign to address modern-day genocide and religion-related crimes against humanity, to our ongoing partnership with Empower Women Media.

For a glimpse into this power, check out CT’s latest article featuring the work of Shirin Taber and colleagues at Empower Women Media. Also, check out the piece RFBF’s Brian Grim co-authored with Jo Anne Lyons for the World Economic Forum on how Religious Freedom Empowers Women.

Also see award-winning film Long Road to Freedom by Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake (Afghanistan and US), which took the grand prize in our 2020 Empower Women Film Competition for the best live action short film. District 18 by Maral Karee (Iran and Canada) claimed grand prize for the best animated short film.


Call for businesses to raise awareness of modern-day genocide

24 Mar, 2021

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is launching a new campaign to address modern-day genocide and religion-related crimes against humanity, focusing on ways that business can help in recovery and prevention.

To begin, take a minute to hear Hewan Omer, the Free Yezidi Foundation’s Iraq country director, summarize the ongoing humanitarian crisis resulting from the 2014 ISIS genocidal atrocities, which included openly selling young Yezidi women in markets as sex slaves.

RFBF is responding in two ways:

First, we are calling on businesses to raise awareness of modern-day genocide by hosting a virtual conversation with Hewan Omer and Ms. Pari Ibrahim, the Free Yezidi Foundation’s founder and executive director, to learn about their Enterprise Training Center for women to be opened this summer.

Second, RFBF will auction Yezidi Spring, an original oil-on-canvas painting by Melissa-Malika*, with 100% of proceeds going to support the Free Yezidi Foundation’s Enterprise Training Center in Khanke, Iraq. We already have an opening bid of $1000.

If you, your business or organization is interested in either of these opportunities, please let me know ASAP by email.

Brian Grim, Ph.D.
RFBF President

* Melissa-Malika aka Melissa Grim, J.D., is an RFBF senior research fellow and artist. Malika is her Uyghur name which she received when growing up in Xinjiang, China, as well as in Kazakhstan, shortly before and after the fall of the former U.S.S.R.

Yezidi Spring

Learn more about the Free Yezidi Foundation here. You can also download the Free Yezidi Foundation Major Gifts Brochure, visit their website, or email Jason Osequeda, partnership director.

Genocide, UN Definition

Horasis and Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

17 Mar, 2021

Brian Grim, president of the religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has been leading discussions at the nexus of faith and business as part of the Horasis Global Visions Community since 2016.

Philip Morris International’s COO, Jacek Olczak, will join Brian Grim tomorrow to explore how religious insights can help companies regain trust. Dr. David Miller, director of Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative will share insights from his white paper “Towards a ‘Restoration of Trust’: Preliminary Insights and Lessons from Wisdom Traditions” (co-authored with Dr. Michael Thate).

Dr. Miller served as an independent, external ethics advisor to PMI and was asked by PMI to write the white paper considering the question of “the restoration of trust” in a corporate context, drawing on wisdom literature found in various religious traditions. This project and preliminary white paper came up with eleven theses on the restoration of trust through the lenses of the three Abrahamic traditions (see graphic).

Following comments by Dr. Miller, will be contributions from Canon Sarah Snyder, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Adviser for Reconciliation, UK; Ahmed Alhaddad, Chief Executive Officer, Swishhair, USA; Faisal Bin Muaammar, Secretary General, KAICIID Dialogue Centre, Austria; and Brahmeshanandacharya Swamiji, Spiritual Leader, India.

See previous events below. › post › 2017/10 › horasis-china-meeting
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Oct 17, 2017  Top executives coming from or working in China will gather at the Horasis Meeting in Sheffield. There Brian Grim, President of the Religious … › 2018/05 › horasis-challenges-davos
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May 1, 2018  Next week at the annual Horasis Global Meeting of business and world leaders, five CEOs, each from a different faith tradition (Catholic, … › post › 2020/09 › ethics-in-a-troubled-d…
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Sep 28, 2020  Register and join me and 500 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community (including UN Secretary General Guterres) as we … › horasis-2018-religions-role-in-business
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7 May, 2018 Horasis Global Meeting Plenary Session. Estoril Congress Centre, Cascais, Portugal. Many global events seem beyond control and ultimately affect  … › Horasis-China-Meeting-2019-programme
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Oct 28, 2019  Co-chairs: Angelica Anton, Founding Partner, Silk Ventures, United Kingdom. Elaine Dezenski, Founder, LumiRisk LLC, USA. Victor Gao, Vice … › post › 2020/03 › horasis-declaration-ou…
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Mar 17, 2020  I applaud Frank Jurgen-Richter, Chairman of Horasis, for his tireless efforts to find solutions to global challenges, including this one. He … › post › 2018/05 › religions-role-in-busin…
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May 6, 2018  Religion, not just religious diversity and inclusion, also animates business leaders. Here, at the annual Horasis Global Meeting of business and … › post › 2017/04 › brian-grim-leads-plen…
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Apr 17, 2017  Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Minister of Economy, Portugal Horasis will convene the 2017 Horasis Global Meeting in Cascais, Portugal on 28-29 May … › post › 2016/06 › faith-takes-a-center-st…
Jun 7, 2016  Grim will chair a plenary panel on the role of faith at the inaugural Horasis Global Meeting in Liverpool over 13-14 June. The event is part of the …

Can religious insights help corporations regain trust? A discussion with Philip Morris International COO and others

16 Mar, 2021

The global tobacco market size was valued at USD 932.11 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a rate of 1.8% from 2021 to 2028.

One major tobacco company, Philip Morris International (PMI), has committed to a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, and its shareholders.

PMI is building a future on a new category of smoke-free products that, while not risk-free, are a much better choice than continuing to smoke. As of Sept. 30, 2020, PMI estimates that approximately 11.7 million adult smokers around the world have already stopped smoking and switched to PMI’s heat-not-burn product.

How is Trust Developed?

On Thursday, March 18th at 12:30PM EDT,  Jacek Olczak, PMI’s current COO and incoming CEO, will join Brian Grim, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation President, for the panel discussion, Deploying Faith, Developing Trust, at the Horasis Extraordinary Meeting on the United States of America. During the panel, Mr. Olczak will discuss the major transformation occurring at PMI and the need to rebuild trust.

Following Mr. Olczak will be Dr. David W. Miller, Director of the Faith & Work Initiative at Princeton University. Dr. Miller will share insights from his white paper “Towards a ‘Restoration of Trust’: Preliminary Insights and Lessons from Wisdom Traditions” (co-authored with Dr. Michael Thate). Dr. Miller served as an independent, external ethics advisor to PMI and was asked by PMI to write this white paper considering the question of “the restoration of trust” in a corporate context, drawing on wisdom literature found in various religious traditions.*

This project and preliminary white paper came up with eleven theses on the restoration of trust through the lenses of the three Abrahamic traditions (see graphic). The paper and its theses is not about any specific organization; rather, it is written for any institution interested in fresh ways to think about the restoration of trust. Nor is it prescriptive in nature; each organization’s context, history, and approach will vary.

But the authors conclude, “We operate in an extremely competitive global market economy that places high expectations on speed, innovation, increasing corporate profits, return on assets, and return on investment. We also operate as human beings with our own high expectations and eternal yearnings for dignity, respect, and trust. This paper seeks to amend the vector of time and focus from quarterly returns to whole-life returns; to expand and change our mindsets from thinking about the way things are to what they might be; and to integrate the reality of the physical with the wisdom of the metaphysical. Religions, such as the Abrahamic traditions studied here, have spent thousands of years thinking about these very challenges. At their heart is one of the most basic questions of life: trust—and how to rebuild trust after it has been broken.”

Following comments by Dr. Miller, will be interventions by:

The Horasis Extraordinary Meeting is the world’s foremost gathering of business leaders who interact with key government officials and eminent thought leaders. Under the theme Rebuilding Trust, 1000 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community are offered the opportunity to interact with the new US administration to shape America’s and the world’s agenda.

* The research methodology and subsequent findings and views represented in Miller & Thate’s preliminary white paper are the authors’ only and were not influenced by nor do they necessarily reflect the views of PMI. Nor do they necessarily represent the views of Princeton University, where Dr. Miller serves on the faculty and leads a research team exploring contemporary questions at the intersection of faith and work with a particular accent on values, ethics, and character-based leadership in the marketplace. The paper was initially previewed during a special roundtable meeting for executives and civil society leaders and others who have gathered in Davos, Switzerland during the week of the 2020 World Economic Forum meetings

Worried about the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” Movement? – Don’t be!

11 Mar, 2021

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

The “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Movement” is inherently controversial because it’s overtly aimed at influencing social change. Still, DEI’s three stated goals can be embraced at a general level by nearly everyone:

Diversity: To gain richer and more creative perspectives for the running of business.

Equity: To advance equal opportunity for all.

Inclusion: To truly value the efforts and core identities of employees who have historically been excluded from significant engagement, decision-making and leadership.

Over the years, DEI’s early focus on race and ethnicity expanded, step by step, to include what previously were avoided topics (like gender, disability and various facets of sexual orientation); and the list is still growing. Each time these virtuous principles were applied to a new category, opposition was expressed. Is the new category really worthy of focus? Would emphasis on the new category dilute or damage other DEI efforts?

Adding “religious diversity” raises the same kinds of questions.

I’d submit that the very existence of such assumptions and fears presents a strong business case for action — a case for including religious diversity. This is so for four reasons:

(1) Whether we acknowledge it or not, faith is at work. People bring their core beliefs to work. They’re all around us. This isn’t changing. If anything, the world is becoming more religious; not less. In our increasingly diverse workplaces, it’s inevitable that people with whom we work will hold some beliefs and values that differ fundamentally from our own.

(2) Working with companies worldwide, we’ve seen that it’s entirely possible for people to respect and care about the welfare of coworkers whose core beliefs differ significantly from their own. One can come to deeply trust and admire people whose ethical codes concerning their personal life differ from one’s own.

(3) Nearly all faith traditions affirm the high dignity and value of every human being, regardless of that person’s belief or any other distinguishing factor. Almost all faiths affirm the principle of extending to everyone the same kindness and rights that we desire for ourselves. Accordingly, the vast majority of people of faith regularly support those who disagree with them in significant ways in their quest for fair and equal treatment at work. And it goes deeper. They visit the “others” in the hospital. They bring them meals. They attend their weddings. They pray for them. They care. They befriend. This is transformative, and reconciling, and uniting. This understanding is transformative, and reconciling, and uniting.

(4) Fact is, in the companies that have embraced faith and belief as part of their diversity focus, the fears about faith at work have been shown to have been unwarranted. There are occasional instances where an individual’s belief system purposefully projects ill will toward others, but that’s very rare. People across the diversity spectrum who’ve traveled the religious diversity path have been surprised by the harmony and positive changes enabled by the dialogue. As with other facets of diversity, bringing faith out of “the closet” enables healthy introspection all around. We in the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation have seen this borne out again and again.

I frequently attend and participate in conferences on DEI. A recent one, the excellent Forum on Workplace Inclusion , included sessions on maintaining one’s integrity in the age of compromise. Speakers expressed a hopefulness and belief that authentic and warm connection is possible across ideological lines. They shared inspiring real-life stories of reconciliation and warm connection between people who are often presumed to be adversaries. They spoke of a “DEI revolution” that involves a coming together “despite those who tried to divide us.” They reflected on the implications of “intersectionality,” including the fact that many LGBTQ people are people of deep faith; and that the diverse groups share core principles of civility. And they pointed out that it’s not a “zero sum game;” that to the contrary, addition of new DEI categories can strengthen all.

Among other things, this conference spotlighted the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation’s REDI Index, which shows that leading companies are increasingly embracing faith and belief as a factor worthy of attention in the broader sphere of DEI. These companies are realizing that for many people, it’s their faith that defines their core identity and that inspires them to excel at work. They see that a culture that stifles expression of employees’ core beliefs that relate to work can be soul-crushing; and a culture that listens to and respects people who embrace “different” beliefs can be inspiring and warm.

Some people worry that DEI training is really about thought police compelling conformity to a particular set of beliefs. We need to dispel this misunderstanding. If one were to insist that all employees affirm that the core values and beliefs of all diversity groups are of equal merit, that would force a “melting pot” culture that blurs differences. That’s not diversity; it’s forced conformity. It’s contrary to the principles of DEI. And it doesn’t work. If anything, the forced melting pot approach to faith and belief sparks resentment, division and suspicion on all sides. There’s a better way: Respect those whose beliefs differ and permit authentic dialogue on topics that relate to work.

This is, indeed, a hopeful time, if only we will listen deeply to one another, and care about those who are not “like us.” The heart and soul of the DEI “revolution” respects differences, and it doesn’t compel conformity. DEI themes can help unite us in a deeper, more profound way. For those goals to be reached, faith and belief must be included as an integral part of the DEI solution.

Wherever you stand on the spectrum, let’s not be worried about DEI. Let’s embrace what we all agree is right and good about it, and nurture authentic relationships of respect – and difference. Let us love one another. The world needs this.

Walmart’s Associate Resource Groups Include Faith and Pride

10 Mar, 2021

Building inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ+ and faith communities works in practice across a range of industries, including in companies as diverse as Tyson Foods, CVS Health, American Airlines, Dell, Intel, Target, Salesforce, Texas Instruments, PayPal, Accenture, Equinix, SAP, American Express, and many others. All of these companies have faith-oriented employee resource groups alongside LGBTQ+ groups.

For example, at Walmart, America’s largest employer, the faith resource group for their associates is FAVOR (Faith and Vocation: Opportunity and Reality). FAVOR’s mission is to connect, collaborate with and celebrate associates of all faiths to make a difference for their company, their customers and their communities. FAVOR’s purpose is to promote understanding, acceptance and inclusion by encouraging associates to appropriately integrate their faith at work.

They do this together with Walmart’s other associate resource groups, including PRIDE in ways that encourage mutual support and collaboration.

From Walmart:

Faith and Vocation: Opportunity and Reality (FAVOR)

Mission: We connect, collaborate & celebrate associates of all faiths to make a difference for our company, our customers, & our communities. FAVOR’s purpose is to promote understanding, acceptance and inclusion by encouraging associates to appropriately integrate their faith at work.

Vision: Bring your whole self to work. | Learn about other faiths from fellow associates. | Find resources about other cultures and beliefs.

Calendar Focus: The third Sunday in January is World Religion Day, followed by World Interfaith Harmony Week.

PRIDE Associate Resource Group

Mission: Be a source of PRIDE in the LGBT and ally community by: • Championing our customers • Counseling our business • Providing a community for our associates Key initiatives for PRIDE include inclusive policies, domestic partnership and transgender health benefits, self ID and pronoun pins.

Calendar Focus: June is LGBT + Pride Month.

6 in 10 of LGB Americans Religiously Affiliated

8 Mar, 2021

Nearly 6 in 10 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB*) American adults are religiously affiliated, according to a 2014 national poll by the Pew Research Center. Of the 59% of LGB adults who identify as affiliated with a faith, about 5 in 10 (48%) identify as Christian. While that is a smaller portion than the general public, it means that a solid majority of LGB people are religiously affiliated.

These data are from the Pew’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, which interviewed 35,000-plus respondents across America.

LGB adults are, however, more likely to be religiously unaffiliated (41%) than the general population (22.8%), the study found.

* The Pew survey did not include transgender or Queer (T, Q) as categories, but a recent poll found a similar proportions of LGBTQ people to be religiously unaffiliated (39%) as did the Pew survey (41%), which only included LGB people.

Brian Grim to speak at Summit on building inclusive workplaces for LGBT and faith communities

5 Mar, 2021


WHEN / March 12, 2021 / 2:00pm – 4:00pm EST … WHERE / Zoom Webinar / Register Here​

Join us for an exciting event bringing Idaho leaders and scholars together to discuss this question: How can we build an inclusive workplace for both the LGBT and faith communities?

Speakers, ranging from legislators to law professors and from pastors to LGBT community leaders, will talk over how faith communities and the LGBT community need not conflict—socially or legally. Everyone is invited—students, community members, attorneys, and professionals alike.

Speakers will focus on the presence of religious and LGBT discrimination in our society and how nondiscrimination laws in the workplace interact with religious liberty.

“Protecting Faith, Preference, and Identity in the Workplace”

  • – 2:00pm EST
  • – Welcome:  Summit Organizing Committee
  • – Moderator: Rebekah Cudé, University of Idaho College of Law
  • – Kim Clark, Attorney, Legal Voice
  • – Tyler Deaton, Senior Advisor, American Unity Fund
  • – Ritchie Eppink, Legal Director, ACLU Idaho
  • – Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
  • – Senator Doug Ricks, Senator, Idaho State Senate
  • – John Rumel, Professor, University of Idaho College of Law
  • – Mistie Tolman, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i

Film Competition Explores How Women’s Rights and Freedom of Belief are Inseparable

3 Mar, 2021

March 8, 2021 – Los Angeles and Washington DC – In honor of International Women’s Day, Empower Women Media and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation announce their 4th annual International Film Competition. The goal of the competition is to challenge filmmakers around the world to produce short films that explore how freedom of belief in the workplace and community empowers women and leads to innovation and thriving communities.

“Freedom of religion or belief gives a woman the right to choose for herself what she believes in and how she wants to live her life according to those beliefs,” explains Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake, last year’s Grand Prize winner.

The competition offers $5,000 in prize money, and the winning 3-minute films will screen before world-class CEOs, UN partners and NGO leaders at the Global Business & Peace Symposium in Tokyo (link).

The submission deadline for the film competition is June 1, 2021.

To submit a short film to the 2021 competition, all participants must complete the free 60-minute eCourse, LIVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE (link).

“We’re excited to share our eCourse, LIVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE, with everyone involved in our film competition,” says, Shirin Taber, the Iranian-American director of Empower Women Media. “We want them to understand the important correlation between freedom of belief and women’s empowerment.”

In preparation for the film competition, Empower Women Media offers coaching and free monthly film training webinars. The next webinar is Monday, March 22nd at 9:00 a.m. PST. To register for the film training or for more information about the film competition, contact Shirin Taber at