Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: October 2022

Ah ha moment on the Israeli-Palestinian border

31 Oct, 2022

By Brian Grim | Guest Post on our blog series, Authenticity & Connection.

Crossing the border, my guide (unprompted) articulated RFBF’s philosophy: Business as a vehicle for covenantal pluralism & peace

After going through the Israeli security wall from Jerusalem into Bethlehem, our group’s Israeli tour guide (below left) no longer had authority to operate. As he handed authority to our Palestinian tour guide (below right), he told me, “business together is really the way for us to prosper together in peace.”

His observation went deeper than just business because he, as a Jewish guide, had just shown us around Jerusalem with a deep understanding of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, representing each fairly and winsomely. And now, he passed us to a Palestinian Christian who showed how two people from somewhat different worlds and faiths can work together in a business venture because of that appreciation for each other and the other’s beliefs – a perfect model of what we call Covenantal Pluralism.

The next day I saw this approach institutionalized at the Peres Center for Innovation & Peace, founded in 1996 by the late Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Israel, which brings together Arabs and Jews into joint initiatives, ranging from soccer competitions to cutting edge innovative start-ups.

Below are pictures that I took at the Center: first, of Shimon Peres’ Nobel medal, and second, of a hologram of Dr. Kobi Richter, CTO of Medinol, an Israeli heart stint company. Richter was one of 12 innovators featured as interactive holograms sharing their innovation stories.

Richter with his wife, Dr. Judith Richter, CEO of Medinol, were friends of Peres, and are doing what the Peres Center promotes through the NIR School of the Heart, which helps high school students of all faiths from Jordan, Israel and Palestine to not only understand cardio-vascular career opportunities but also connect their hearts.

On Thursday, Judith and I, joined by JP Morgan Chase’s Jean Sung, will deliver an invited plenary address to the Global Wellness Summit on the value of faith to wellness. The global wellness industry is a $4.5 trillion sector covering everything from resorts and fitness to health and wellbeing products and services. This summit attracts the top CEOs working in this field from scores of countries around the world.

On Friday, I’ll be making my way to the far north of Israel, to the border with Lebanon. I’ve been to Lebanon several times, but this is the first to its neighbor, Israel. Having been on both sides of several borders, I’m left with hope that what unites can be stronger than what divides.

Prayerfully yours from Tel Aviv.

Thank God we don’t all lose hope on the same day

30 Oct, 2022

By Rev. Melissa Maher and David Roland, Houston, Texas | Guest Post reacting to research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. This is part of our Blog Series, Authenticity & Connection.

“Thank God we don’t all lose hope on the same day.” This gratitude prayer echoes across the room every week. As hope dealers (yes, an intentional play on words because some congregants once dealt other things), we who have received hope share it freely with all.  Hope. Everyone needs some.

Since the late 1990’s, Mercy Street, a church community in Houston, Texas, stands as a public witness to the messy and transformative work of practicing spirituality AND recovery.  About 60% of us work a 12-step program in the traditions of Al-Anon, AA, SLAA or CA. Yet 100% of us are in recovery from life. We are a safe harbor to bring your whole story—the light and shadows. Faith and doubt.

If you attended our church on a Saturday night, you’d be sitting next to a miracle: either a CEO who kicked workaholism to the curb to discover a wealth of real relationships or a woman with an ankle monitor and a PO (parole officer) searching for an employer sympathetic to her past and attentive to her present.

Mercy Street reveals at a micro level the macro trends outlined in the 2019 research by father-daughter team Brian and Melissa Grim, Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse. Their research amplified the influence and economic contribution 130,000 faith communities have by working alongside treatment providers and the 12-step community to address the growing epidemic of addiction and mental illness.

Deaths from opioid overdoses topped 100,000 Americans in 2021, nearly double the number of deaths from 2018.  How do we change the tide? One of the primary ways to reduce addiction is by shattering the stigma and bringing to light the struggles we each encounter. We are only as sick as our secrets, and what is hidden often grows in the dark.

Now is a time we need faith communities, clergy, healthcare providers and employers to recognize the fragile ground on which we stand and the practical tools we have within arm’s reach.  As an ordained pastor, I’ve intentionally learned the language of addiction and how best to connect with treatment and recovery resources in Houston. At a national level, Mercy Street is working with a growing inter-faith network to address substance use disorders. It is also a time for business leaders and companies to provide resources to their employees to seek help before a crisis erupts.

For one of our congregants, his life experience and participation in Mercy Street has enriched his 35-year legal career. David writes,

     My wife and I have been active members of Mercy Street for over 10 years. For the last 18 years, I have been employed as a senior executive and chief legal officer of two NYSE-listed companies. My faith has made me a more effective business leader, manager and lawyer, and I also believe my experiences as an executive, manager and lawyer have greatly enriched my faith journey.

     I could give numerous examples of why I believe this to be true, but perhaps the best example is how my faith informs and influences my performance as a manager. My faith enables me to be more empathetic, forgiving and patient toward employees, less prone to over-reactions and more able to view developments with a broader perspective.

     I’ve gained a broader perspective because of my participation in the Mercy Street community. Becoming close friends and being church with a former homeless person, a drug addict or survivor of human trafficking provide an unexpected and immeasurable perspective. 

     When I am interviewing a person, I focus on their experience and qualifications, but my hiring decision is always more influenced by the whole person – their presence, personality, maturity, character, even their sense of humor. My experience is that the most effective professionals (especially lawyers) also possess intangible traits that result in a level of wisdom and discernment which is far less common.

     Because I strive to hire the entire person, the employee must be willing to apply their whole, authentic self to their job. My job as a manager is to foster an environment where an employee is willing to be vulnerable and bring their whole self to work. The last thing I want is for an employee to leave those intangibles, including their faith, at home. I try to be open with employees about my personal and family life, including our struggles, and I encourage employees to freely talk about their home life. I reference my faith, and, perhaps most importantly, I repeatedly remind employees while it is important to devote our time and effort to our jobs, our work is not our most important function on this earth. Our ultimate reason for existing is greater than any “to do” list.

     After working with exceptional professionals over a 35-year legal career, I have discovered those uncommon intangibles almost always include a strong faith in a higher power, regardless of whether it is defined by any one religion.

Mercy Street is just one example of the impact faith communities can have in developing a thriving society. Even as church membership and worship attendance decline nationwide, we believe there are pockets of hope. The essentials for us are show up to God and show up for one another. Be where our feet are because Jesus is there too. Swim in the ocean of God’s radical grace because we’re living proof our worst days won’t be our last days.

There is hope, and if you run out, you can borrow some of ours.

Here’s Cecilia’s Story:

Faith at Work: How Top Performing Companies Measure Up

26 Oct, 2022

Faith at Work: How Top Performing Companies Measure Up

Hear from top performing organizations on this unique area of corporate inclusion and learn what it takes to achieve recognition in the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Index – “REDI Index


  • — Supriya Jha, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, SAP
  • — Millicent Rone, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Sr. Specialist, American Airlines
  • — Sumreen Ahmad, Director, Talent & Organization – CEO Transformation, Accenture
  • — Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
  • — Moderator: Ben Christensen, SAP

Breaking: Rishi Sunak, First UK Hindu PM

24 Oct, 2022

New UK Prime Minister Makes History as First Hindu to Hold Such Office in the West

By Brian Grim

While some may find it surprising that the United Kingdom now has an Indian-origin and practicing Hindu as its new Prime Minister, the impact of Indian-origin politicians, business leaders and medical professionals is an entirely predictable trend.

Six top U.S. tech companies now have India-born CEOs. While it is not a matter of public record whether all of these CEOs practice Hinduism (and certainly not all India-born CEOs do, e.g., Span Construction CEO King Husein is Christian), having a rising number of US India-born CEOs draws attention to a little-known data point from our study prepared a few years ago for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

We estimate that global GDP at the disposal of Hindu populations is expected to increase by 615% between 2010 and 2050 (see chart). This growth in GDP is substantially more than projected overall global GDP growth of 216% for the same time period. This not only outpaces overall growth, but is makes Hindus the fastest growing economic group among all major religions, according to the study.

This means we can expect to hear much more from Hindus on the global stage in the coming years. That can, of course, be very good when compared to the anti-religious stance of their giant neighbor, China, as long as the voice is one that promotes a faith-friendly future for all (including those without a faith), as espoused by Covenantal Pluralism.

But the challenge is real: A recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds that Indians generally say they do not have much in common with members of other religious groups, and large majorities in the six major groups say their close friends come mainly or entirely from their own religious community. And reports of communal violence continue to cause concern.

On the other hand, there is a tremendous open door for Covenantal Pluralism to grow: The same Pew survey found that most people (84%) say that to be “truly Indian,” it is very important to respect all religions (see chart). Indians also are united in the view that respecting other religions is a very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community (80%). People in all six major religious groups overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths, and vast majority (91%) say that people of other faiths also are very free to practice their own religion.

The open door for Covenantal Pluralism is even more evident (and promising) when looking at common practices across India’s religious groups. Pew’s study also finds that India’s religious groups share several religious practices and beliefs (see chart): “After living side by side for generations, India’s minority groups often engage in practices or hold beliefs that are more closely associated with Hindu traditions than with their own. For instance, many Sikh (29%), Christian (22%) and Muslim (18%) women in India say they wear a bindi – the forehead marking often worn by married women – even though the bindi has Hindu origins. Meanwhile, Muslims in India are just as likely as Hindus to say they believe in karma (77% each), as do 54% of Indian Christians. Some members of the majority Hindu community celebrate Muslim and Christian festivals: 7% of Indian Hindus say they celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid, and 17% celebrate Christmas.”

While Western Christian theologians might scratch their heads to find that nearly a third (29%) of Indian Christians believe in reincarnation (just 11 percentage points fewer than Hindus, 40%), it reveals the actual beliefs and practices of people. As the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation emphasizes in its religious literacy programs for corporations, people cannot be best understood by beliefs theologians may hold, but by their actual beliefs, what faith organizations they belong to, and their behaviors, which may be idiosyncratic or cultural, rather than dogmatic or religiously mandated.

This open door of shared beliefs and practices – as shown by the Pew data –  is one which companies in India can capitalize on and be the drivers of mutually respectful engagement across faith traditions, as is demonstrated by one of our 2021 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award winners, Candice Corby, CEO of US and India-based Cobra Legal Solutions.

The text of Corby’s Award states: “Cobra provides rights and freedoms for all religions and beliefs in the workplace and promotes the celebration of religion and belief, encouraging employees to be their full selves including bringing their faith and beliefs to work. Cobra Legal Solutions accomplishes the goal of being a religiously inclusive workplace by observing every festival and religious holiday world-wide and by hosting a commemoration for religions in a week known as “Cobra Life Week” [see video].”

And for an example of an Indian-born CEO working for religious freedom, see this video:

80% of Business Leaders See Faith as “Good for Company Culture”

21 Oct, 2022

80% of business leaders say it’s “good for company culture” to encourage employees to be open about their faith, according to a new Deseret News/HarrisX nationally representative poll

A summary of the findings by Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas notes that while business leaders are at times reluctant to reveal their own faith, they are more open to religion-related programming in the workplace. The survey finds that 8-in-10 business decision-makers say that it’s “good for company culture” to encourage employees to be open about their faith.

Additionally, according to the survey, 3-in-4 business leaders said discussions about religious beliefs make workers happier.

RFBF’s senior corporate advisor Kent Johnson, coming from a 37-year career with Texas Instruments, shared his thoughts on this with Kelsey Dallas. Read more here.

Also, see more on Kent’s thoughts on the contributions faith makes to corporate culture in the video below, or meet him at the 5th Annual DFW Summit for Religious Freedom on Oct. 27th in Dallas at SMU!


Faith Facts: Impact of religion in U.S.

14 Oct, 2022

By Brian Grim

NEW: First Comprehensive Resource on Religion’s Impact in America

Faith Counts, a multi-faith nonprofit group, recently launched a first-of-its-kind database that distills the latest research on how religion positively impacts the most important issues facing America.

Two of the studies that my daughter, Melissa Grim, and I did on the economic contribution of faith to society are featured:

  • Socio-economic impact: Religions in the United States today contribute a combined $1.2 trillion a year to the economy and society.

  • Substance abuse addiction: Faith-based recovery programs provides $316 billion annually in savings to U.S. economy.

However, studies highlighting the impact of faith and religion are often aimed at scholars and academics, making it difficult to find the meaningful information too often buried in published works that can be difficult for the non-scholar to navigate.

Faith Facts uses videos, infographics and shareables to pull out key data points to detail the invaluable role faith communities play in supporting the economy, healthcare, immigration, criminal justice, substance abuse and disaster relief. They have been particularly critical during this historically difficult period, supporting:

  • Disaster relief About 58% of all emergency shelter beds are faith-based
  • Criminal justice There are 12,000 congregations in the U.S. that have prisoner outreach groups
  • Immigration: Over 30,000 congregations have programs to help immigrants

Check it out!

Related Video

The Power of Silence – Keeping Embers of Hope Alive

12 Oct, 2022

by Steven A Hitz. Steve is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in more than 70 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere. This is a guest post in our ongoing blog series, Authenticity & Connection.

A pastor noticed that a parishioner had stopped attending his services. The parishioner evidently felt he was no longer noticed, loved, or missed by his attendance, so he simply stopped coming.

The pastor gave it some prayerful thought and paid a visit to the elderly man on a very snowy and cold winter day. He knocked on the door. The man opened the door, and they had a cordial greeting, but beyond that, neither said a word.

The man motioned to a chair to join him by the fire. After a good time of only the sound of wood and coals crackling and feeling the warmth of the fire, the pastor picked up the fire prod and began poking at the coals. He moved a glowing coal away from the fire. They both sat watching as the coal lost its heat and eventually stopped glowing. Several minutes went by in silence. Then, the pastor pulled the coal back to the edge of the fire as they watched it rekindle and glow again, adding heat and luster as the glowing embers glistened off their warming faces. The pastor put the prod down, tipped his hat and walked to the door and let himself out.

The following Sabbath, the man returned to the congregation. The pastor welcomed him by name and asked what brought him back. The man said “Pastor, at my home by the fire, you gave the best sermon I’ve ever heard you give without saying a word.”

This story I recently heard is directly relatable to the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our world today, especially among our youth. Feelings of anxiety and depression often lead to isolation. The healing process is a two-way street. Those who notice the dying ember must reach for it and bring it back into the fire. Those who are the dying ember must allow themselves to be open to authentic outreach and be willing to be moved (both on their own and by the love of the community).

The question is how to begin this outreach. One of the more evident answers is to do as the pastor did, and not say a word—just listen and be there for each other.

In his book, Happy Mind Happy Life, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee articulated 10 rules for listening to others.

  1. 1. Be non-judgmental.
  2. 2. Be curious.
  3. 3. Practice true sympathy: not “I know how you’re feeling,” but, “I don’t know how you’re feeling but I am here for you.”
  4. 4. Take time to really listen; don’t just think about the next thing you’re going to say.
  5. 5. Show them you are listening with your body language—posture, tone of voice, eye contact, not being distracted by your phone.
  6. 6. Don’t try to predict where the conversation will go next.
  7. 7. Embrace silence.
  8. 8. Repeat back what they’re saying in your own language.
  9. 9. Don’t try to fix them or rush in to tell them what you would do. Instead, try asking “How did that feel for you?” and then actively listen without interruption.
  10. 10. Have no attachment to the outcome of the conversation.

There are also keys for listening to ourselves and surrounding ourselves with people in selective circles of trust. Parker J. Palmer, talks about developing circles of trust in his book, A Hidden Wholeness. Not surprising, he notes both the need for companionship and community in our journey, as well as being able to live in silence to effectively “listen” for our inner voice. He writes “….We all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader.”

Becoming acquainted with our inner voice (or teacher) is essential. Though it is a unique voice for each of us, it still requires community for our inner truth to leave isolation. This journey toward inner truth, he said, is too taxing to be made solo, too deeply hidden to be traveled without company, and needed to find the courage to venture into alien lands (a new life of fulfillment).

The space we make to discover and listen to this inner voice is highly individual. No two people may take the exact journey, and that is the beauty of discovering our inner voice It is OUR personal teacher—no one else’s. It is OUR personal tutor and speaks only to us if we are listening.

For me, finding my inner voice requires peace. In some recent travels I had a chance to compare total chaos in a busy city to the absolute peace of a secluded lake. What was the difference between them? The city was a cacophony of noise with masses of people like salmon swimming upstream. While at the lake, I could sit and hear myself breathe as I viewed the large expanses of mountains and water. The silence around me brought the peace I was seeking, and my inner voice began to speak to me. Those trusted friends who were with me were kind enough to watch me breathe without saying a word, until I was ready to reveal some of what my inner voice was telling me. I extended the same courtesy to them. This became a beautifully healing experience.

In all my research and lived experiences dealing with these issues, I’ve felt simple observations and suggestions like these are helpful. The formula that works for me in lowering my anxiety and limiting bouts of depression are these:

  • – Find a place for peaceful silence without being too isolated; a space to hear the inner voice guiding your next steps.
  • – Be with trusted friends and family who have the skills to listen, really listen (sometimes without saying a word), and to enjoy the warmth of their figurative fires to keep the embers of hope alive.
  • – Practice the art of listening as you figuratively reach for the fire poker and gather in the dying embers to ignite hope.

Evolution requires reflection. I hope as you reflect on the impressions of the inner voice, ponder the story of the dying ember, and commit to a being a better listener, you will discover ways to be reignited and experience the glow and warmth you truly deserve.

Aha! Moment – Faith Drives Leadership Style

12 Oct, 2022

Sumreen Ahmad, Accenture’s Global Change Management Lead, revealed an Aha! Moment in her keynote at Dare to Overcome 2022.

Sumreen found herself one day in a feedback discussion where she was being promoted, when a colleague told her that he’d “never met anyone with so much tenacity, patience and perseverance”. This same colleague saw no reason why faith belonged in the workplace. Sumreen seized the opportunity – taking advantage of the ‘aha’ moment to explain just how much those values were engrained in her – not because of any corporate training she’d received, but because of how her faith drove her leadership style anchored in being accountable to something much bigger than herself.

You can see Sumreen’s full comments here, as well as other talks she has given.

Also, Sumreen will be on a panel on faith at work with Supriya Jha, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, SAP, and Millicent Rone, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Sr. Specialist, American Airlines, and me on Oct. 19, if you’d like to see how a growing number of top companies are recognizing the value of faith.

Do media focus too much on religion’s faults?

8 Oct, 2022

We are partnering with the Faith & Media Initiative to tell a fuller, richer story

A Mission to Unite

84% of humankind identifies with a religion – it’s a deep part of our identities and worldviews. Yet most stories about faith are negative, sensational or divisive.

The Faith & Media Initiative brings together faith leaders, business leaders, media members and content creators around shared interests, helping them create, collaborate and reach larger audiences. Joining forces, we can do more to heal divisions and promote understanding, inspire more balanced faith stories, and foster a healthy conversation about spirituality.

Learn more.

“The transformative nature of religion should be depicted a bit more in the media, and I don’t think it is.”

Brian Grim Addresses JRCLS Religious Liberty Fellows

8 Oct, 2022

Brian Grim pictured with three of the Fellows from BYU Hawaii, (L-R) Soktheavy Phouk, Fahina Lauti, and Jane Sandberg

Washington DC, October 7

Dr. Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, addressed the 2022 J. Reuban Clark Law Society Religious Liberty Fellows on October 7. Now in its fourth year, the Fellowship was held in Washington, D.C. This year it was also cosponsored by the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Grim drew attention to “building” religious liberty, an approach that expands religious freedom by increasing the space in society where deeply held faiths and beliefs are respected, celebrated and engaged. The example Grim focused on was the growing acceptance in some of the world’s biggest and best companies of religion and belief as a full-fledged part of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion, as measured by the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index.

One example Grim shared of how this works is summarized in the following video introducing Google’s Inter Belief Network (IBN) Employee Resource Group (ERG).

Grim Also shared examples from numerous companies that participated earlier this year in the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s National Faith@Work ERG Conference, Dare to Overcome, including the testimony of American Airlines in the following video.

Grim also shared how, thanks to the senior counsel at PayPal, they were able to launch their interfaith ERG “Believe.”

In addition to hearing from Brian Grim, Fellows heard from federal judges, congressional staffers, nationally recognized religious liberty advocates and scholars, and interfaith representatives (see program). The Fellowship allows participants to build both their knowledge of the law, strengthen their networks, and formulate plans to promote religious liberty in their communities.

Related video:

Also see Brian Grim’s 2021 BYU Marriott School of Business NAC Presentation.