Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: June 2021

Top Business Leaders Address Virtual IRF Summit

30 Jun, 2021


Three top business leaders will address the virtual IRF Summit on July 16th, in a plenary presentation. They will discuss how and why religious freedom is not only a benefit to business and economies, but also how business itself is a place where religious freedom is built as people from different faiths and beliefs work together for common goals.

The virtual IRF Summit is free and open to all. Registration is required.

This virtual event will have special panels exploring both the workings of IRF Roundtables and IRF Business Roundtables around the world as well as launch new global initiatives in support of freedom of religion or belief (FORB).

This event will also include selected sessions from the IRF Summit* that show how religious freedom is for everyone, everywhere, all the time, as stated in Article 18 of the UDHR.

Speakers include Kathy Ireland, Founder, CEO Kathy Ireland Worldwide; Ingrid Vanderveldt, DELL’s first Entrepreneur in Residence, and CEO of EBW; and King Husein, CEO, Span Construction & Engineering, Inc. The discussion is moderated by Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights.

Register NOW!

* The IRF Summit 2021 takes place July 13-15 in Washington, DC. The inaugural IRF Summit aims to expand the coalition for religious freedom in a wide variety of countries, connect resources with religious freedom advocates, highlight the stories of those who are persecuted for their beliefs, and build political support for the global religious freedom movement.

Mindful Reflections About Work

26 Jun, 2021

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

Part of his regular blog, Authenticity & Connection

Guided by principles of my faith, I recently “retreated” for about 3 weeks, and disconnected from day-to-day work, in order to focus on my relationship with God and with my family, my friends and my work on religious freedom in business. So glad I did.

The Judeo-Christian tradition in particular prescribes times for periodic, quiet reflection and re-connection with one’s core identity and life purpose. Many other faiths encourage related practices, including times for quiet mindfulness, solitude, self-examination and connection with the divine. (I’d love to hear stories of your faith-driven reflections on work and life if you’re willing).

Businesses everywhere stand to benefit from their employees’ times of retreat and reflection.

I’ll get a bit personal here. My recent time of retreat provided a window for me to exit from the incessant onslaught of daily worries that come at me from several directions. But at first there was concern: Would the products of my persistent efforts – my “works in progress” – erode due to my neglect? Would our focus on authenticity and connection dissolve? Would my close colleagues at home and abroad think I had forgotten them?

Then, over time, my disengagement freed me to apprehend the fact that “it’s not all about me.” (Some of you are chuckling, I know, at the idea that I could be so self-absorbed as to think I was central to all this).

What washed my anxiety away more than anything was simple laughter with children. After two and a half weeks I began to see that the looming worldwide distrust and rancor are surmountable – without me.

I tend to be my own most critical and demanding overseer. I had recently authored a blog on the need to acknowledge “being wrong;” yet I needed time in quiet reflection before that principle could truly dwell deeply in me, and cause me to let myself off the hook in certain areas of my life. In place of fretfulness, a childlike, renewed calling to kindness swept away my self-imposed requirement to be right. By forgiving others, I was freed from anxiety. By accepting and experiencing forgiveness myself, I sensed an even deeper and more wonderful release. By quietly listening to my Lord and taking more time to meditate on scripture, I was reminded of my core identity and God’s sufficiency.

I return to my calling of religious freedom in business with renewed energy, fervor and light. (OK, those who know me will say I’ve always had fervor… but now it’s more deeply informed and enabled by peace).

Now, none of this is a new revelation. One might say I should’ve learned this long ago. Fact is, I did. Again and again. But deep truths that bring peace must be brought to remembrance again and again. That’s one of the reasons that periodic “retreat” is so necessary and so transformative, time after time. It’s when we forget that we become anxious. And we’re prone to forget. We need reminding.

Seasons of tension are inevitable. And they can be constructive. At certain points in my career as a senior lawyer in a large multinational company, I worked under the authority of senior leaders who were very anxious themselves; people who imposed harsh tension on everyone around them. In such situations, I sensed that my personal (and, I believe, spiritual) responsibility was to “stand in the gap” to prevent destructive anxiety from being transferred to those who reported to me. This entailed daily leaps of faith; not only to shield others, but to resist fears that my supervisor would disapprove, or misinterpret my downstream attitude as a lack of needed urgency, while addressing what was truly needful. To those of you who labor under such a tension-inflicting authority, my heart goes out. But I can say with confidence that it’s entirely possible to stand as an island of peace in that seemingly relentless storm. And to emerge stronger, and even more filled with peace. The goal for many of us isn’t to avoid the storms and avoid tension; it’s to engage the storms and respond to tension with love.

Today I’m working with a truly wonderful leader, the founder and President of our Foundation, Brian Grim. This man genuinely models peace in all storms. He’s unflappable. He’s inspirational. I’m very thankful for that. But even under his leadership, I need these reflective times; deep times which can usher up reminders to keep from imposing my own personal storm on myself.

Peace. Depth. Rest. Thankfulness. These are some of the rich hallmarks of faith at work.

Blessings to you all!

Dare to Overcome highlights workplace accommodation

16 Jun, 2021

August 23rd, Day 2 of Dare to Overcome, focuses on the intersectionality between faith & abilities ERGs, and how disabilities are unique abilities.

The first Keynote is by Justin Greene, lead, Persons with Disability (PwD) Employee Resource Group (ERG), Accenture Federal Services, USA. The second Keynote is by Yanagi Masahiro, owner, Sign With Me, a restaurant employing people with hearing impairments in Kyoto, Japan.

PayPal embraces workplace accommodation

“Corporations are helping build free and inclusive societies – PayPal is one great example among many.” – Brian Grim, RFBF President

We have previously highlighted how PayPal’s Believe ERG promotes religious inclusion in PayPal workplaces. Now, Jonah Otis shares how Thrive, PayPal’s Disability ERG, transformed his life at work in the short video below.

Thrive is PayPal’s Employee Resource Group that focuses on fostering an inclusive workplace for the disabled community at PayPal, by elevating awareness; fostering safe spaces; and promoting the PayPal brand by establishing connections within the communities where they live and work.

You can also see Jonah in our Dare to Overcome video about our ERG initiative in Japan here.

Day 2 of Dare to Overcome will highlight how corporations are aspiring to enhance the recruitment, retention, and advancement of employees with disabilities.

Corporate Sponsor Events will highlight Best Practices in Workplace Accommodations and include Panel discussions between members of faith & abilities ERGs on best ways Faith ERGs can be active allies of Abilities ERGs. Abilities ERGs will also share about best practices in accommodation and what other ERGs can do to be strong allies.

A special keynote panel will focus on faith perspectives on disability ethics and technology.



Breaking News: Cannes Film Festival’s Afrique Pavillion Accepts “A Different Way”

12 Jun, 2021

RFBF is thrilled to announce that the Cannes Film Festival’s Afrique Pavillion accepted A Different Way, a film by Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook & Lauren Merkley, who were our 2019 Empower Women Film Competition Grand Prize winners! This inclusion is thanks to being submitted by Terra Renee, CEO and Founder of African American Women in Cinema.

In the film, Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook shares her experience as the first female chaplain for the NYPD and how interfaith relationships were essential in fostering hope and rebuilding a city after the events of 9/11.

Amb. ‘Sujay’ served as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from April 2011 to October 2013. She has served as a policy advisor to President Bill Clinton and was the first female senior pastor in the 200-year history of the American Baptist Churches USA and a close friend of Coretta Scott King.

Lauren Merkley is a documentary filmmaker and photographer passionate about capturing the beauty of people and stories in their own environment. She seeks to share the good in the world and believes in the power of film to touch audiences across the world.

And a special thanks to our Film Competition partner, Empower Women Media for the work in helping women have impact through media!

Our upcoming 2021 film competition will demonstrate how women’s rights and freedom of belief are inseparable, and when these rights are respected, that’s good for societies and economies. So, please join us Aug. 22 at 11am EDT for the 4th annual Empower Women Media’s and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s International Film Competition and Festival. This is an official Dare to Overcome event.

The New Anti-Semitism: What Business Needs to Know

6 Jun, 2021

Antisemitism has mutated over time and appears today in many different forms and among all parts of society.

With the recent rise in antisemitic attacks, the topic of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s July 1st faith-and-belief ERG community call is a discussion on the new antisemitism with Prof. Asher Maoz and Google’s Nicole Rahimzadeh.

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. – working definition, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)

Professor Asher Maoz is the Founding Dean of the Peres Academic Center Law School. He was for many years on the Faculty of Law at Tel-Aviv University, where he taught Constitutional Law, State and Religion, Freedom of Speech, Family Law, and Succession Law. Professor Maoz holds the degrees LLB and LLM, both summa cum laude (Hebrew University), M Comp L (University of Chicago), JSD (Tel-Aviv University) and Doctor Honoris Causa (Ovidius University, Romania).

See prepared comments by Prof. Asher Maoz, Founding Dean of the Peres Academic Center Law School.

Nicole Rahimzadeh is an Administrative Business Partner at Google and part of the leadership in the Jewglers (Jewish Googlers), part of Google’s Inter Belief Network.

Summary of recommendations by Nicole Rahimzadeh:

— Adopt a consistent approach to tackling and condemning all forms of hate against all minorities, including antisemitism.

— Make it clear what constitutes antisemitism and take a consistent clear stand against it when it shows up (e.g. adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism can help, and consult AJC or ADLfor advice).

— Include antisemitism in any ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ discussions and trainings for the HR team and employees. Education is key.

— Create an ERG (Employee Resource Group) for Jewish employees:

– The ERG can support and be there for each other during the spikes of antisemitism attacks.

– ERGs help to amplify and hear the voices of the Jewish employees – especially important when specific issues arise in the company affecting the group directly.

According to IHRA, contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • — Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • — Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • — Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • — Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • — Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • — Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • — Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • — Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • — Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • — Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • — Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.


Dare to Overcome award from American Airlines goes to Justin Greene

5 Jun, 2021

IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Washington DC, Dallas TX)

American Airlines awards two round trip business class American Airlines tickets to attend Dare to Overcome, Tokyo, Japan, to Justin Greene, a lead for a major technology services organization Persons with Disability (PwD) Employee Resource Group (ERG).

At the 2021 Faith@Work Conference, Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer at American Airlines, announced two business class American Airlines tickets to Dare to Overcome in Tokyo would be given to a person at one of the conference companies based on a nomination of a colleague from the company with a disability.

American Airlines is the official airline of Dare to Overcome, a Global Faith-and-Belief Oriented ERG festival in support of peace and people with disabilities, held in tandem with the Paralympic Games. At American Airlines, their purpose is to care for people on life’s journey – a mission that extends beyond the airline and into the communities they serve.

Dacia Cross, nominated her colleague, Justin Greene, for the award.

“I cannot be more proud at this moment, on the behalf of 100,000 American Airlines Employees, to present this to you … truly a model of someone who lives out what it looks like to dare to overcome,” said Fr. Greg McBrayer, Chief Flight Controller for American Airlines, who also serves as a Corporate Chaplain and the Global Lead of the Christian Employees Business Resource Group (CEBRG) at American Airlines.

Justin epitomizes the spirit the global event that celebrates how people with disabilities are not disabled, but instead have different, unique abilities, as Justin so powerfully shares in his acceptance speech.

“We are looking forward to Justin sharing his experiences with the Abilities communities in Japan during Dare to Overcome to be held this August on the eve of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo,” said Brian Grim, Global Chairman of Dare to Overcome and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. The event will be in-person and virtual so that people and employee resource groups worldwide can participate.

Dare To Overcome: Justin Greene

Nominated by Dacia D. Cross

Justin is a member of my team who has several disabilities: narcolepsy, dyslexia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and suffers from Peripheral Neuropathy.

He has been a major advocate in the inclusion and diversity community. He began the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2012. He currently leads membership efforts for the national PwD ERG, growing the group from 400 to close to 2,000 members across the U.S. today. He has spoken as a panelist, representing the Narcolepsy community, at the FDA in 2012. He was also a speaker at the Association of Proposal Management Professionals’ (APMP) annual conference in 2016, speaking to businesses and encouraging them to hire people with disabilities.

Justin is also one of the most inclusive and caring managers on my team. He understands that people matter, and he is the servant leader that I can depend on when I have an employee that needs additional supports and careful coaching.

The most compelling thing about Justin is his life journey. He was abandoned by his single mother at age 15 and stayed with friends to finish high school. He went to college, but then symptoms of narcolepsy began to interfere with his education. He had to drop out to join the U.S. Army and was medically discharged three years later because of his disabilities. At each point, he could have given in or given up, but he didn’t. Even today, he is back in school to finish the degree that he started 15 years ago.

I would like to nominate Justin Greene because “Dare to Overcome” is what he is great at, not only for himself, but for those around him too. Thank you for your consideration of this incredible employee!