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Vaccines and Workplace Religious Accommodation

20 Sep, 2021

Vaccines and Workplace Religious Accommodation

  • Wednesday, October 6, 2021
  • 1:00-1:30 PM U.S. Eastern Time (12pm CT / 11am NT / 10am PT)
  • Registration required (free)

Under the mandate announced by the White House in September, all employers with 100 or more workers would have to require that their workers be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly Covid-19 testing. Employers that don’t comply can face fines of up to about $14,000, according to the administration.

As companies grapple with questions about the Covid-19 vaccine mandate, one they face is how to respond to employee requests for exemptions based on religious grounds.

Join us for a discussion on vaccines and religious accommodation with Richard Foltin and Kent Johnson on Oct. 6th. Registration (free) required.


Featuring

Richard T. Foltin is a Fellow with the Freedom Forum’s Religious Freedom Center. Previously, he served in a number of positions at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), most recently as director of national and legislative affairs in the AJC’s Office of Government and International Affairs in Washington, D.C., from 2009 to 2018. In that last role, Mr. Foltin was responsible for a broad range of AJC policy and legislative activities, including religious liberty, civil rights, immigration, energy security, and combatting domestic antisemitism and anti-Israel boycott efforts. Prior to coming to AJC, he was an associate with the litigation department of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, a New York law firm.

Mr. Foltin has testified before congressional committees and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, including at several congressional hearings on religious discrimination in the workplace. He serves on the governing council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and as co-chair of the section’s Religious Freedom Committee; he previously served as chair and co-chair of the section’s First Amendment Rights Committee. Mr. Foltin is a member of the Committee on Religious Liberty, founded by the National Council of Churches and today convened by the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute. A native of New York City and a child of Holocaust survivors, Mr. Foltin received his B.A. magna cum laude with honors in Political Science from New York University and his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. He is a member of the bars of New York State, Washington DC, and the U.S. Supreme Court.


Kent Johnson is the Senior Corporate Advisor for the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF). In that role he helps companies design and implement best practices regarding religious diversity and inclusion and promotes authenticity and connection among employees across the belief spectrum in ways that strengthen recruitment, engagement, retention, morale, ethics and personal fulfillment. Kent also helps companies navigate their legal obligation to accommodate employees’ religious expressions and practices while carefully avoiding any impression of compulsion to participate in or agree with them.

Before joining RFBF, Kent served for 37 years as a senior legal counsel at Texas Instruments Incorporated, where, in different assignments over the years, he had responsibility for legal support of nearly all of TI’s businesses and its worldwide ethics, quality, corporate responsibility and risk management functions. He also helped launch the company’s faith-oriented employee resource groups and served as Chair of the TI Diversity Network.

A member of the Texas and American Bar Associations, Kent graduated with honors from Dartmouth College and from Villanova University School of Law.

SHIPWRECKED: Simple Lessons Learned Through Tragedy – Part One

10 Sep, 2021


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 43 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere.


Perhaps it is my love of sailing, having gained my ocean sailing certificate last year, that enthralls me about sailing adventures. Particularly shipwrecks and the true stories behind them.

A new friend recently referred me to one of these books, Island of the Lost, by Joan Druett. I imagined the crew and situations as the details of their experiences unfolded, in a day when you couldn’t drop your sails and start the engines to motor sail toward safer waters. This was circa mid 1800’s. They sailed a schooner named Grafton.

I found myself comparing their experience to the lives we live today. To completely surrender to the powers of mother nature and to circumstances beyond our control is a challenge of will and faith. Being at mother nature’s mercy requires a degree of faith and perseverance, especially when our physical powers don’t offset the storms of life. It also demands a certain degree of humility, knowing in the end we may not be able to find reasons for the shipwrecks on the shores of life. For each of us, our journey may be fraught with peril. But through the process we discover previously unknown strengths as we sojourn along this uncertain path called life.

This past year many of us have been beaten on reefs, with winds and gales pounding waves over the deck. Facing global challenges of epidemics, pandemics, and government uncertainties, we find ourselves anxious with many situations out of our control.

In her book, Druett extracts exacting journal entries from the survivors. The Grafton was shipwrecked in a mighty storm in the South Pacific. As they abandoned ship and made it to shore, Francois Raynal, a frail crewman, was left alone to keep a fire alive while the other four survivors looked for shelter. He wrote, while feeling very alone and gripped by a terrible panic, “How and when should I escape from this island, hidden in the midst of the seas, and lying beyond the limits of the inhabited world? Perhaps never! I felt my heart swell; I was almost suffocated; tears which I could not restrain filled my eyes, and I wept like a child.”

I know the pain, having lost a son who was filled with loneliness. I know the pain, recently losing another aging parent to maladies of the day. I know the pain, learning that a friend lost his wife to COVID-19; he certainly knows the pain. My heart breaks for him; he couldn’t even attend his wife’s funeral as he too came down with COVID. For many of us this past year, we can recite similar experiences of pain while trying to weather the storms of life.

Not all pain has to be dramatically tragic. So much of our painful experiences are silent, where the breeding grounds of anxiety and depression find roots. There are many forms of pain which put us on the edge of our sailing ships, looking for calmer waters.

A short time ago, I witnessed a young married man trying to get his family back to Hawaii from the mainland. I was in our UPS Store and watched as the owner of the store informed him that shipping several objects to Hawaii would cost many times the anticipated charge. I witnessed the dejected look on this young man’s face, not being able to process the fact that these important possessions that needed to make the trip to their new home were about to be abandoned. As I watched this scene play out, I was nudged to do something NOW. My heart said “this family needs a pay-it-forward lift; a respite from the storm. I was in a position to help the young man pay the fare. Tears were in both of our eyes, the store owner standing in disbelief, and the line that had formed behind us literally clapping for what had transpired. This young family was on their way, with their important possessions coming along too, nothing left behind. Someday, they will return the favor to someone else stranded on the reef needing a lifeline. I’m not patting myself on the back—anyone with a heart and means would have done the same thing.

As he tended the fire, the shipwrecked Francois Raynal remembered he had experienced a revelation his first night at sea many years prior. Said he “the limitless sea surrounded me; the celestial vault was for the first time displayed before my eyes in all its vastness; I was plunged everywhere into the Infinite – my soul was penetrated with a grave and solemn enthusiasm, the thought of the Supreme Being…. was present in my spirit.”

Everyone has a connection to a version of their God of the universe. When tragedy comes our way, we need to tap into the unspoken power we derive from that. Raynal’s faith was a constant support and prayer restored his courage. He later wrote “For every ill there is a good,” commenting on the lovely bird life that was attracted to their campsite.

I feel the same, along with my family. In our commonality of purpose, the healing powers are present as we enjoy the prayers from those of many faiths – as my Rabbi friend John Borak has coined “Many Faiths, One God.”

Each of us is in our own boat, charting our own course, discovering our true identity and purpose, and hoping for a steady and safe wind and manageable seas. When the sea is too rough and we find ourselves shipwrecked, we hope that others will rescue us and bring us safely to shore. We look yonder and prepare to sojourn once again on yet another journey. As we embark, may I share a few principles to apply if we find ourselves shipwrecked in one form or another.

  1. (1) Move Forward. I have a dear friend who experienced a tragic, unexpected loss of a loved one. She was counseled to “just move on” and not languish in the past. She didn’t feel settled with this counsel. It felt like she was being asked to simply “move on” as if the tragedy never happened. A little while later, she was listening to a podcast regarding grief and heard the counsel to “move forward” (rather than “move on”). What a difference a word makes. Our experiences make us who we are, especially the tragic ones. Moving forward allows us to keep our learned experiences and make our future even more meaningful. This has been our family’s experience also – MOVE FORWARD.

  2. (2) Give yourself a break. The captain in the shipwreck saw the angst and hopelessness on the faces of his crew. There was still much to do to secure their winter shelter should they not be rescued in a timely manner, and time was of the essence. But looking into their eyes, he saw they needed to rest and be allowed to gather themselves and recover; to allow them to process, take a deep breath and prepare to muster their strength for another day. He gave them a day off. Great captains give their crews a break after the storms have passed. We ought to do the same as captains of our own souls.

  3. (3) Rediscover the innate unspeakable spirit that beckons our God to help us. Often when times are smooth, we may forget the force we once felt connected to; tragedy is our opportunity to reconnect and rediscover that peaceful center.

  4. (4) Step up when prompted. There will be times in our lives when we witness the storms of life passing over those we know and love and even those we know not at all. EVERYONE needs a lifeline from time to time, so let’s be very aware that we may hold the line that needs to be thrown and do so immediately.

  5. (5) Listen for the singing birds. I often imagine my deceased son speaking to me through nature. My favorite songbird is a meadow lark. It sings to me every morning from spring to late fall. We can remember as Raynal did, that ‘for every ill there is a good,” and perhaps when we move forward, give ourselves a break, surrender, step up when prompted -THEN we can listen for the songbirds and face our tragic journeys with renewed courage and fresh eyes.

I look forward to sharing more of the lessons learned from shipwrecks. In the meantime, adjust your sails and keep moving forward! Regardless of the challenges and tragedies we face, there are journeys yet to take – much sailing yet to be done.

Faith@Work on 9/11 (Zoom Recording)

10 Sep, 2021

Hear how 9/11 still defines the work of Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, (Ambassador Sujay is a former NYPD chaplain and US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom), Fr. Greg McBrayer (American Airlines chief flight controller and Christian EBRG leader), and David W. Miller, Ph.D. (Dr. Miller became Director of Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative after 16 years in senior executive positions in international business and finance). Moderated by RFBF President, Brian Grim.

News coverage: Religion and 9/11: How tragedy changed the role of faith in the workplace

9/11 was the day that “ministry came out of mayhem,” according to Fr. Greg McBrayer, a Chief Flight Controller and Chaplain at American Airlines, who was on duty that day. 9/11 not only changed the future of air travel, but opened a door for ministry that has only grown wider since that fateful day. Filmed by Tim Antkowiak.

Thank you first responders.

Faith@Work on 9/11

1 Sep, 2021

Join us at 1pm (Eastern Time) on Thursday, September 9, to hear the untold stories of faith at work on September 11, 2001, as seen through the eyes of 9-1-1 call dispatchers, chaplains, and flight dispatchers on duty that morning.

Featuring Amb. Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook (9/11 First Responder and Chaplain) and Fr. Greg McBrayer (American Airlines Chief Flight Dispatcher and Chaplain).

For a preview, watch:

A New Lens: Unique Abilities, Not Disabilities

28 Aug, 2021

The benefits of workplace accommodation and respecting the human dignity of all

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


“Survival of the fittest.” It’s a principle we can observe again and again, not just in the wild jungles, deserts, and seas, but also on the world’s political stage, and even in our workplaces, as dominant powers sometimes subjugate and abuse those who are vulnerable. Is this who we are as human beings?

I was deeply moved this week when a corporate leader described being clinically blind as a “blessing.” He opened our eyes. He explained how the constraints of blindness have enabled him to lift others up, to show others how to build trust and collaboration, and to strengthen the fabric of corporate culture. This was just one vignette in a tapestry of inspiring personal stories at the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation’s “Dare To Overcome” conference at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, also held virtually worldwide.

The concepts discussed at the conference have powerful and broad relevance, not just to the needs of people with varying abilities among us. Whether faced with a disability or not, we all, in some way and in some places, from time to time, struggle with constraints and weaknesses. Though they may not equate with disabilities, per se, we can learn much from our colleagues with disabilities about how our constraints and weaknesses might present opportunities for blessing. Fact is, we are a community of people who need each other. Help, freely given to the vulnerable without expectation of recompense, is the lifeblood of civility.

The cultural enrichment that comes from heightened sensitivity to others’ needs is just one facet of the business benefit that flows from embracing people with disabilities. Another benefit comes from the insight and heightened abilities they bring to work. For instance, one speaker at the conference described how a company’s focus on accommodation of autistic people led to new AI facial recognition technology that has far broader uses. And, since all technology can be used for good or evil, it’s important to give voice to those who might be especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of some uses.

Some might think discussion of disability and vulnerability is a bit “off topic” for a foundation focused on religious freedom in business. Here are three thoughts on the connection:

(1) As “Dare To Overcome” speakers pointed out, people of every faith, no matter how dominant on the world stage or in particular communities, are in the minority somewhere else. People of every faith are subject to marginalization, oppression, and even genocide somewhere. At the Dare to Overcome conference we heard a poignant cry for help for Yezidi women in Iraq. Religious hatred isn’t the same as physical or developmental disability; but people who indulge in religious hatred have disabled their civility.

(2) Nearly all faiths urge compassion towards and protection of the vulnerable of society. They teach that the arrogance of the powerful is a form of blindness. Some point out the ironic fact that, when we are weak and recognize our weakness, then we are strong. And many affirm the great value of every human being, regardless of one’s social standing or particular set of vulnerabilities.

(3) Like we benefit from accommodating people with various disabilities in the workplace, we will benefit in a similar way from accommodating people of diverse religions in our midst. (Note: I’m not equating religious belief with disability. Far from it. But in some cultures, minority religions are wrongfully treated as a liability or problem.) Companies ought to give voice to members of religious minorities for many reasons, including that of enabling deeper, more trusting connection among coworkers. A corporate culture that humbly acknowledges, respects and listens to its people of different faiths – without imposing the idea that all their respective truth claims are equally valid – is open to fresh, breakthrough insights. The blessing of insight from diversity is especially transformative and healing in cultures where a particular religion or way of thinking is viewed as dominant. Even in what we consider a “free” society, we must be vigilant to guard against the blind arrogance of the powerful, or it will marginalize the vulnerable and foreclose this blessing.

The theme “Dare to Overcome” presented three challenges. The first and obvious one is directed to those of us who have disabilities and constraints: We should keep striving and never lose hope.

The second speaks to all of us; especially those in the dominant culture and in the mainstream, who may think we have no disabilities: We should dare to overcome the prevalent cultural pressure to think of ourselves as self-sufficient or good enough without help.

Third, we should humbly appreciate and celebrate the unique abilities and perspectives that disabled people bring (as illustrated by the blind corporate leader). In so doing, we will nurture relationships of trust, we’ll strengthen the fabric of civility in this all-too-hostile world and we’ll be living true to the values we profess: the values that make us human.

We can do much better than replicate the harsh realities of the wild jungle, the barren desert and the roaring sea. Our workplace culture ought not be a place where it’s “survival of the fittest” or the most powerful. Work ought to be a place where respect and accommodation for every human being — regardless of status or affiliation — are the starting point. Caring for each other, regardless of vulnerability, is a good start. Our faiths lead us to this. Together, let us “dare to overcome!”

To drive home the point, let me end with this inspirational clip of the “Dare To Overcome” Virtual Global Choir.

Announcing the Women’s CEO IRF Roundtable!

23 Aug, 2021

Invitation to Women Business CEOs

Join us virtually on Sept. 2 and in-person on Oct. 29 in Dallas, TX, to begin to use our business know-how to address religious and gender-based discrimination against women, such as the ISIS genocide of Yezidis, with thousands of Yezidi women still held as sex slaves by ISIS fighters, as well as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Email Roundtable secretary Christina Clark for details.

Case-in-point: Yezidi Women Recovering from Genocide

Meet the Co-Chairs

Intel’s top leaders to receive Business & Interfaith Peace Gold Medal Aug. 24

22 Aug, 2021

Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger and EVP Sandra Rivera to receive 2021 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award Gold Medal on August 24 in Virtual Ceremony


The join other CEOs from US, UK Iraq, Israel, India, Australia, Japan to be honored from multiple industries: technology, construction, health, food, manufacturing, legal services


EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Washington DC, 22 Aug. 2021, 00:00 AM

Pat Gelsinger and Sandra Rivera will virtually take the stage, speak and be honored with Gold Medals at the global Dare to Overcome conference on August 24 for their work in interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.

“Pat and Sandra are showing Corporate America and the world that creating a culture where people can bring their whole selves to work – faith, beliefs and all – is good for people, good for business and good for society,” said Dr. Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. “This is for everyone,” said Grim, “because everyone’s core values (religious or not) are the engine driving commitment and innovation.”

The Intel Corporation is the most religiously inclusive Fortune 100 company in America, according to the REDI Index. Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, and Sandra Rivera, Intel’s CPO, have helped create a culture where people can bring their whole selves to work — faith and all — thanks to solidly incorporating religious diversity into their overall diversity and inclusion commitments. Intel’s embrace of religious inclusivity is seen in their willingness to officially sponsor a wide range of faith-based employee resource groups. These groups not only support members of their particular faiths, but also work together in an interfaith association to support all employees at Intel to succeed in work and life, indeed, a positive model for society at large.

Winners of the third biannual Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards will express their thoughts on faith and work as they are presented with Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in a virtual global ceremony at noon ET, Tuesday, Aug. 24, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. For winners in Japan, a special awards ceremony will be held at the prestigious Sophia University in Tokyo on Aug. 22.

Previous Awards were presented in tandem with the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro (2016) and in Seoul (2018), where former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and former general manager of Bain Capital, Robert C. Gay, gave keynote addresses.

The awards are presented by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a US-based nonprofit, in cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for Peace initiative. The foundation helps educate the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business and how they can promote respect for freedom of religion or belief.

Winners come from a variety of religious backgrounds and manage companies and enterprises in Australia, India, Iraq, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are given in three categories: Core Business, Philanthropy, and Advocacy.

The Core Business gold medal is shared by Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, and Sandra Rivera, Intel Executive Vice President, former Chief People Officer and now General Manager of the Datacenter & Artificial Intelligence Group, who have helped create a culture where people can bring their whole selves to work – faith and all – thanks to solidly incorporating religious diversity into their overall diversity & inclusion commitments.

The Philanthropy gold medal goes to Dr. Judith Richter, CEO of the Israeli heart stint company Medinol, who also founded the NIR School of the Heart to help high school students not only understand cardio-vascular career opportunities but also connect the hearts of people from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

The Advocacy gold medal goes to King Husein, Chairman and CEO of Span Construction & Engineering, who has played a critical role addressing the rising tide of restrictions on religious freedom that has swept the globe over the past decade. His efforts range from helping found the South Asian Consortium for Religion and Law Studies, to helping to kick off the first-ever Business Roundtable to advance International Religious Freedom during the 2019 UN General Assembly in New York City.

Silver medals go to John Tyson (Core Business), Chairman of Tyson Foods, who was an early pioneer of building a faith-friendly workplace by recognizing the spiritual and psychological needs of all employees; Maurice Ostro (Philanthropy), Chair of Ostro Fayre Share Foundation, Vice Chair of the Council of Christians and Jews (the UK’s oldest interfaith organization) and the Founding Patron of the Faiths Forum for London; and Peter Mousaferiadis (Advocacy), founder of Cultural Infusion in Australia, who is a pioneer in using cultural and artistic expression as a means of promoting social cohesion and interfaith understanding.

And the three bronze medals go to Khalid Khowshnaw (Core Business), founder the Hemn Construction Group in Iraqi Kurdistan, combats discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sectarian identity by intentionally hiring differing nationalities to working alongside one another; Dr. John Gathright (Philanthropy), founder of Tree Climbing Japan, who helps children of differing faiths, abilities, and challenges come together to find an increased self-confidence through embracing the challenge of climbing trees; and Candice Corby (Advocacy), founder of Cobra Legal Solutions in India and the U.S., who promotes the celebration of religion and belief, encouraging employees to be their full selves, including bringing their faith and beliefs to work in this majority-female law firm.

“These CEOs show that business is a powerful force for building interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace in workplaces, marketplaces and in societies at large,” said Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and global chair of Dare to Overcome. “Indeed,” Grim said, “civil society and governments have much to learn about building religious freedom in practice from these amazing champions.”

Dare to Overcome

The awards are presented as the culminating virtual event of Dare to Overcome (DTO) (at noon US ET on August 24, 2021), the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s signature global conference, with the mission of shining a light on successes in promoting mutual respect and allyship among diverse communities. Each day focuses on a different theme:

– Aug. 22: Social Justice, Equity and Religious Non-discrimination
– Aug. 23: Intersectionality Between Faith & Abilities Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
– Aug. 24: Business for Interfaith Understanding, Peace & Inclusion.

Please join on the 24th us to hear and interact with these CEOs as well as experience DTO’s gala finale: our virtual 200-member global choir from dozens of countries, faiths and ethnicities singing the Dare to Overcome original anthem!

Additional Details

The 2021 jury is comprised of a group of high-level experts, including from the European Union (H.E. Ján Figeľ, former Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU); the NGO religious freedom community (Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, and a former Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom); and the business & peace community (Per L. Saxegaard, Business CEO, and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation, Oslo, Norway).

RELIEF from the Culture Wars!

13 Aug, 2021

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


Today, in many circles, certain words and phrases are instantly presumed to signify that the speaker has bad character and dangerous intent, and is worthy of mockery, condemnation and aggressive opposition. Presumed association with a group or worldview is enough to spark distrust, fear and hatred; and in extreme cases even promotes violence.

You’ve seen it on social media, and, chances are, even in your workplace. You yourself may have fed the drama.

Against this volatile cultural backdrop, how can we begin to weave a fabric of civility?

There’s hope. We at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation have seen how Businesses can launch transformative ventures of civility across cultures, by embracing Covenantal Pluralism.

Let me begin by providing two controversial examples from workplaces: one individual’s perception of the study of “intersectionality and critical race theory,” and another’s perception of the promotion of “religious freedom.” (Warning: I’m going to wildly oversimplify controversial issues here – and I don’t intend to “take sides” on any of the controversies – but if you’ll bear with me, I think you’ll see the overall goal of this analysis is helpful and apt).

First, “Intersectionality.” Ann (a fictitious name) sees the growing focus on intersectionality and critical race theory in diversity training as a means by which socialists are fueling anger and resentment among aggrieved parties in order to influence legislators to force an unfair and counterproductive governmental redistribution of wealth. More troubling than that, she worries that certain coworkers are pushing for a Marxist revolution and establishment of an all-powerful central government that will crush people like her. This impacts her work, because, in the course of the diversity training, Ann feels she’s been accused of having racial bias, simply by virtue of her race. She worries that this will impede her advancement in the company.

Second, “Religious Freedom.” Bob (a fictitious name) sees the phrase “religious freedom” as a pretense by which fundamentalists are trying to deny HIS freedoms, and to condemn him. The CEO of the company he works for says the business is run according to “Biblical principles,” and openly supports legislation to advance “religious freedom.” Bob says, “Why should fundamentalists be allowed to cram their restrictions and condemnation down our throats?” He worries that his employer seeks to impose a theocracy that deplores the core values and beliefs of people like him. He feels alienated, powerless and fearful.

Two different topics. In each case, the perceived threat is both personal and corporate. It seems each is promoting laws and policies that would protect its interest by imposing restrictions on the other. It’s adversarial. One side’s success would spell the other’s failure. The fears are real; and they greatly complicate relationships at work.

Time for disclaimers. What I have to suggest is no panacea. I’m not contending that protective laws and policies are unnecessary. I won’t resolve the complex issues associated with these topics. But I’ll suggest a step toward strengthening the fabric of civility in your workplace, person by person.

I believe that though it’s important to understand the past, historical conflicts need not prevent us from creating something new and better. Through one-on-one engagement that remains true to the core values of each person, we can nurture a culture that respects differences without trying to compel uniformity of core beliefs.

Intersectionality and religious freedom are just two of many possible examples, but by way of illustration, let’s push ourselves to think anew about the goals and the potential impact of each. We can do this by opening the door to employees’ respectful discussion of core values and beliefs. (Not compelling such discussion; but encouraging it). Returning to our two examples:

Ann chose to engage with the colleague who said she was a bigot; to give that person the benefit of doubt concerning intent. Over time, Ann and her colleague began to perceive another facet of “intersectionality” in a generic sense. They discovered that they share a belief in God, and they both aspire to treat others the way they themselves would like to be treated. They learned that each has a family member (by blood or marriage), whom they love, who ascribes to the views of the other on intersectionality; and some who belong to the same organizations. Their common interest in caring about their family members with different views brought them together. Today the two are close friends, working in concert.

What about Bob? In light of negative experiences with religious people from whom he sensed condemnation, he was unwilling to engage with the advocate of religious freedom. But a trusted colleague told him about a panel discussion at his company among people of various faiths, and an atheist, about how the speakers’ faith and belief systems affected their work. He attended. To his surprise, he witnessed genuine respect and warmth among these diverse speakers. Each remained true to his or her belief system; yet they really seemed to respect and care for one another. He was encouraged by what he saw; and today he’s a strong advocate of reaching out to “the other side.” Talk with him today, and you’ll come away filled with hope for civility.

Multiply these personal interactions by the thousands, and you’ll begin to see how workplaces that enable and encourage discussion of core values and beliefs are serving as platforms for civility to grow. Tremendous solid progress is made, one-on-one. But it doesn’t stop there: As each person engages on a deeper level with another representing a different perspective, the positive ripple effect spreads 360 degrees, as other colleagues witness reconciliation.

This doesn’t just happen spontaneously. But it’s possible. And it’s happening in more and more companies. A key starting point is to reach broad agreement on a set of basic ground-rules on which, in our experience, almost everyone will agree. For more on that, see our list of Basic Principles and our forthcoming article on Covenantal Pluralism.*

To learn more about the encouraging cultural transformations sweeping many companies, and to see how these themes of positive intersectionality and freedom of religion and belief work together, join us August 24 for the DARE TO OVERCOME conference. Register HERE.

* Author’s Accepted Manuscript. Forthcoming as, Brian Grim and Kent Johnson, “Corporate Religious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as Covenantal Pluralism.” In Chris Seiple and Dennis R. Hoover, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Religious Literacy, Pluralism, and Global Engagement (Oxford: Routledge, 2022).