Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Now more than ever

20 Oct, 2023

We need freedom of religious expression in business

By Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor

A family member asked me: “Doesn’t the war in Israel and Gaza show that religious zealotry fuels terrorism? Why, then, do you continue to argue for freedom of religious expression in business?”

It’s an apt question. It deserves a solid answer.

Of course, every terrorist event carries its own backstory; and it’s counterproductive to conclude broadly that terrorism is motivated by “religious belief,” or political expedience, or some other cause. That said, I see strong reason to favor freedom of religious expression in business and society at large.

My reason is twofold, drawn from extensive experience we’ve garnered with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation:

First, demonstrably, the alternative is far worse. Attempts to stifle open religious expression yield heightened suspicion, distrust and alienation among people of varied faiths.

Attempts at stifling religious expression drive religious expression “underground.” The only permitted religious expressions are those shared with people of one’s own religion. There’s no cross-fertilization of ideas. Distrust and fear is multiplied across religious and cultural lines.

The vast majority of religious people promote peace and acknowledge the profound value of every human being. Stifling their voices would cripple a powerful ideological force for peace and harmony.

It’s far better to know what the “others” are saying and believing, than to be forced to guess.

Second, our considerable experience and research demonstrates the positive, peaceful, reconciling effect of religious freedom. Again and again in business settings, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation has witnessed how freedom of religious expression enables and nurtures strong cross-cultural alliances. We have yet to hear of instances of significant conflict arising out of freedom of religion in business; and we’ve seen many, many instances of deep, sincere connection across religions.

Our experience demonstrates that freedom of religion promotes civility. We need this. PERHAPS NOW MORE THAN EVER.

Read more from Kent Johnson at Authenticity & Connection.