Faith and business are powerful forces for peace


Religious Freedom Brings Peace, and Not Just World Peace

16 Oct, 2020

by Steve Hitz

Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in 36 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere.

The word “religion” in itself, brings with it a set of paradigms strangely positioned in our world. In its name, entire countries were established, wars fought, and persecutions beset to those who have tried to live into their own faith— regardless of the consequences.

Many of today’s youth declare, they are “spiritual but not religious,” or “spiritual but not affiliated.” Why do they say that? It is a popular phrase to self-identify a life stance regarding spirituality that takes issue with organized religion as the most effective way to further spiritual growth. And yet, while seeking their own spiritual path that may be different from the path of their parents, the ability to achieve this quest still requires religious liberty.

Of all freedoms desired and sought after, the right to guide one’s own spiritual beliefs without oppression from others in the same society is paramount. And yet, this freedom is infringed upon in todays “cancel culture” where those who disagree decide to eliminate each other from their lives. Righteous movements to put attention to social injustices are smothered by hatred and vitriol toward anyone who has a differing mind-set.

Contrast this with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jewish) with her colleague Antonin Scalia (Catholic) and their relationship. Even though they differed on many points of judicial considerations and even faith, nevertheless they became dear and trusted friends; they built a sweet and lasting relationship that respected each other’s views without diminishing their friendship. That is a lesson for all of us. The religious liberty they both practiced made each other more complete. Indeed, it brought peace on so many fronts.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Eulogy at Justice Scalia Memorial Service (C-SPAN)

Whether your spirituality is derived from a mountain top, a band, or steeped in tradition, religious liberty provides the freedom to live in your own path of fulfillment. I believe our society can take a few tips on how to live out religious liberty. It involves personal action and also a unified world view on the matter.

Religious liberty is the freedom to believe and exercise or act upon religious conscience without unnecessary interference by government. It is the freedom to practice one’s faith, or to practice no faith at all. While government needs to step in to resolve conflict between religious liberty and law, it must look out for any who would be detrimentally affected by their decisions. This can be tricky and is where the voice of the people largely guides the consequences of religious freedom.

In the United States, the first amendment to the constitution provides guidance on how this liberty is protected and assured. Note, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the first amendment, but is considered shorthand to say when church and state are separated, neither tries to interfere with the essential mission and work of the other. Someone’s religious liberty is denied, and everyone’s religious liberty is threatened, when government favors one faith over another. The fight for religious liberty is an effort to prevent government from doing what even God will not do; coerce faith.

So why is this so very important? Because without religious liberty and freedom, peace and choice are replaced by coercion and control. In all ages, this leads to war and destruction of the human family. Religious freedom is the seedbed for human rights and protects what makes us human. Religious liberty is not just an American value; it is much more than that. Some scholars argue that religious freedom is not a distinct right and conflate this right with other issues of the day. This conflation undermines the innate idea that religious freedom and liberty is a distinct right of every human being, which idea was codified as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. This document has been referenced by thousands seeking to advance this cause and right. Even so, we should remember that religious freedom was a human right eons before it was codified into any document.

In an effort to protect and preserve religious liberty, please consider the following ideas:

Practice Civil Discourse

Though we may have cultural differences, we ought not to have cultural wars. Everyone may have their own way of expressing, for example, the Golden Rule (treat others as you wish to be treated). Every faith has their own version that essentially inculcates peace, harmony, and human dignity. Islam states, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself” (The prophet Muhammad, Hadith), while Taoism states “Regard your own gain as your neighbors gain, and your neighbors loss as your own loss”( Tai Shank Kan Ying Phen). I can cite similar definitions from over two dozen different faith traditions. The point is, while there are many faith traditions and beliefs, the end result of respecting one another’s right to believe or not brings us all to a better understanding of how we achieve the same desired results though on different paths.

Respect Human Dignity

The beauty of religious freedom is that it provides a proper window to view others through. Instead of judging another’s beliefs, it promotes the idea that all are created equal and should be afforded without distinction or discrimination, all that their spiritual and religious hopes desire. The current world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said recently, “discrimination because of race is morally wrong and contrary to God’s plan of happiness for His children,” (Russell M. Nelson). Again, the human right of religious freedom affords everyone the right, without prejudice, to believe or not believe. Either way, it leads us to respect human dignity.

Use your voice with loving clarity, not anarchy and hatred

Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stated, “The remnants and vestiges of the current America will be taught in history classes, preserved in shadow box frames and ensconced in museums. Future generations will likely mourn our current America of 2017, 2018 and 2019, which has been fraught with polarization, whistle blowing, name calling, tweets, brutality and hatred. We are tired of the vitriol, caustic leadership and unapologetic indecencies and offenses. Our souls cannot relive any version of this again. We crave a better America. We have the collective capacity to build a better America. Each of us must commit that the better America of tomorrow begins with our individual actions — today.” She also said “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.”

Dallin H. Oaks, former Supreme Court Justice of the State of Utah, said “While we do have the right to peaceful protests in the United States, by law, protesters have no right to destroy, deface, or steal property or to undermine the government’s legitimate police powers. The constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy. All of us—police, protesters, supporters, and spectators—should understand the limits of our rights and the importance of our duties to stay within the boundaries of existing law. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” Redress of grievances by mobs is redress by illegal means.”

Our distinct right of religious liberty and freedom is better assured through civil discourse under the laws of the land; it is destroyed through anarchy, hatred and the “cancel culture.” Therefore, let your disputes be in the spirit of the framework of human dignity and civil discourse. Let your voice be that of loving clarity.

Pray for healing and understanding

Religious liberty affords us the opportunity to hope for brighter days in turbulent times; to go beyond conflict toward a time of calm and peace. Implementing these few suggestions will build a framework to promote, defend, and celebrate religious freedom. We are all individuals on a planet, trying to live out a peaceful life of meaning. Religious freedom can allow this life of peace of purpose to exist, advance, and prosper. It is worth praying for healing of hearts and for understanding as we strive to advance the wonderful causes such of our day, such as social justice.

Within the framework of civil discourse, respecting human dignity, and using our voice with loving clarity, we can achieve peace. Religious liberty is the seedbed for achieving the peace of which I speak.

Religious Freedom & Business Work Grows During Disruptive Coronavirus

13 Oct, 2020

Brian J. Grim

The coronavirus has not only claimed more than one million lives worldwide, it has disrupted what had come to be seen as the inevitable march forward of a globalized world. It has contributed fuel to nationalism that was already on the rise, making the path forward less predictable.

Times of disruption are almost always an opportunity for growth, according to the late Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen. So, what has been the experience of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation during this time? It has been indeed a time of growth because instead of just maintaining the projects we engaged with, we expanded initiatives aimed at promoting our core mission:

to educate the global business community, policymakers, non-government organizations and consumers about the positive power faith — and religious freedom for all — has on business and the economy.   

Four ways we have innovated during the coronavirus disruption are:

1. New Research and Writing

During the height of the shutdown period, we (Kent Johnson, Paul Lambert and I) compiled the first-ever book of voices from business leaders across Fortune 500 companies describing why bringing one’s whole self to work — faith and all — is a business imperative. The movement of toward faith-friendly workplaces is already underway, and we believe that the than 45 business leaders who share their own personal “why” will make this a paradigm shifting book. Stay tuned for more as the book moves towards publication in 2021.

2. Impacting New Audiences

Over the past two weeks we have described to new audiences the powerful ally business is in advancing religious freedom by allowing people to be their authentic selves in the workplace. This includes describing the faith and business movement to the following audiences:

— Dallas, TX: Interfaith Encounters on Religious Freedom, hosted by Dr. Robert Hunt of Southern Methodist University.
— Washington DC: J. Reuben Clark Law Society Religious Liberty Interns.
— Denver, CO: Launching Leaders Worldwide annual stakeholders meeting.
— Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum’s Sustainability Summit.

Happening today:
— New York, NY: Principled Entrepreneurship Conference sponsored by the Napa Institute and the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America.

And forthcoming, Nov. 9:
— Winnipeg, Canada: Entrepreneurial Leadership Network’s ELO Forum Online, Rethinking Diversity & Faith at Work

3. New alliances

Next month we’ll be announcing a new alliance to provide a brand new tool for corporate America to assess their level of religious diversity and inclusion.

4. New Technologies

Rather than wait for the world to go back to “normal,” we are embracing the new normal where major meetings and conferences will be online or a combination of virtual and in-person. Ww have invested in a software system that makes this possible starting in December – stay tuned!

Finally, as the the late Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen points out, disruption is an opportunity, but for those unwilling to adapt, it is a threat. Join us as we seize the opportunities ahead!

Is Disruption an Opportunity or a Threat? Clay Christensen Explains from Religious Freedom & Business Fnd on Vimeo.

Authenticity, Transparency and Trust in the Age of Covid-19

6 Oct, 2020

by Kent Johnson, Senior Corporate Advisor, RFBF

The Covid-19 crisis spotlights another threatening illness in companies and society today: The apparent lack of authenticity, transparency and trust.

Especially during this time when we’re barred from in-person interaction, coworkers need to go deeper; to get more personal, and more authentic. We need deep connections among people collaborating all over the world – including people who differ in their faiths and beliefs, but who share core personal motivations to promote honesty, compassion and unselfishness.  This need will remain after Covid-19 is defeated.

Faith-and-Belief-oriented Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have a lot to offer in this crisis. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s (RFBF’s) online conferences promote freedom of expression about faith and core values in the workplace. RFBF’s rigorous studies illustrate how this freedom enables human flourishing.  We celebrate companies that do this well, especially those that encourage employees to bring their full authentic selves to work, including their faith. And we see increasing evidence that companies are increasingly embracing faith-oriented ERGs as enormously beneficial for business – and for society at large.

We’re thankful that many of you are joining us in this hope-filled venture for a cure to the lack of authenticity, transparency and trust. And we are also pleased to announce the launch of the first-ever LinkedIn Group for Faith and Belief ERGs. Please join our LINKEDIN GROUP to share your thoughts and to stay in touch.

Watch: Kent relates how a faith-friendly environment at Texas Instruments brings out the best in employees as he introduces TI VP Ellen Barker at the 2020 Faith@Work National Conference.

Human flourishing and religious liberty: Evidence from over 150 countries

5 Oct, 2020

by Christos A. Makridis

My new study looks at the spatial and time series patterns of religious liberty across countries and estimates its effect on measures of human flourishing. The main findings are:

— First, while there are significant cross-country differences in religious liberty, it has declined in the past decade across countries, particularly among countries that rank higher in economic freedom.

— Second, countries with greater religious liberty nonetheless exhibit greater levels of economic freedom, particularly property rights.

— Third, using micro-data across over 150 countries in the world between 2006 and 2018, increases in religious freedom are associated with robust increases in measures of human flourishing even after controlling for time-invariant characteristics across space and time and a wide array of time-varying country-specific factors, such as economic activity and institutional quality.

— Fourth, these improvements in well-being are primarily driven by improvements in civil liberties, such as women empowerment and freedom of expression.

Tragically, roughly 80% of the world lives in a religiously restricted environment. Even with all the billions of dollars invested in development by the World Bank and other multilateral institutions, many countries around the world maintain repressive regimes that persecute religious minorities.

My newly-published research in PLOS ONE investigated the importance of religious liberty quantitatively, building upon an initial series of studies by Brian Grim. First, contrary to public opinion, the median country experienced a 13% decline in religious liberty between 2006 and 2018. Moreover, these declines were concentrated among countries with stronger property rights – for example, Western Democracies. In fact, it has declined by 35% in America between 1980 and 2018. Second, drawing on a sample of over 150 countries surveyed between 2006 and 2018, I found that increases in religious liberty lead to improvements in human flourishing – an effect concentrated among religious minorities. Third, I found that the reason for this stems from the positive impact of religious liberty on democratic governance, the process for civic engagement and women’s empowerment, and the likelihood for public and political corruption.

Although many critics who have sought to de-prioritize religious liberty have argued that countries that perform better economically and socially differ in other ways beyond their approach to religious liberty, this study is not subject to the same weaknesses. First, given the size of the sample and breadth of the data, I can control for standard measures of economic freedom and institutional governance. Second, because I observe over 150 countries for over a decade, my results are driven by comparisons of religious liberty in a country against itself in a future or previous date. In other words, I am not comparing Venezuela with the United States; rather, the U.S. in 2006 with the U.S. in 2010, and so on. In summary, the results underscore the importance of religious liberty for human flourishing, which is particularly timely in light of the persecution against religious minorities in China and elsewhere.

About: Christos A. Makridis Christos serves as a Senior Adviser in the National Artificial Intelligence Institute at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Research Professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business in Arizona State University, a Digital Fellow at the Initiative at the Digital Economy in the MIT Sloan School of Management, a Digital Fellow at the Digital Economy Lab in Stanford University, a Non-resident Fellow at the Institute for Religious Studies at Baylor University, a Senior Adviser at Gallup, a Non-resident Research Scientist at Datacamp, and a Visiting Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Christos previously served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers managing the cybersecurity, technology, and space activities, as a Non-resident Fellow at the Cyber Security Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and as an entrepreneur and adviser. Christos earned a dual Masters and PhDs in Economics and Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University.

Give Life a Chance: A personal reflection on suicidal ideation

29 Sep, 2020

by Steve Hitz

Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide, a nonprofit organization that provides young adults with tools for personal leadership and faith. He is the author Launching Leaders: An Empowering Journey for a New Generation, and Entrepreneurial Foundations for Twenty and Thirty-Somethings, available at Deseret Book or Amazon. This was also published in Deseret News.

For several years I have been doing research and writing about anxiety and depression and related issues that affect a large percentage of our populous.  These issues have had an especially profound impact on the rising generations.  Our teens and 20 to 30-somethings, who are trying to redefine real purpose, wholeness, and well-being in their lives, are in a battle with prolonged isolation, feelings of hopelessness, financial loss, and stress.

I am sorry to report that in all my research and writing about this topic, it wasn’t enough to save my 39-year-old son from succumbing to these demons recently.  His was a combination of mis-diagnosed prescription drug use, ADHD, and anxiety and depression with a COVID capper that caused his mind-set to finally throw in the towel.  He left behind a loving wife, parents, four siblings and their spouses, nephews, nieces and many friends.  He was truly loved and will be loved forever.

Now, amid the epidemic of the maladies that have raised the suicide rate to an all time high, I have discovered  some solutions that may help those in the midst of this darkest loneliness to give life a chance.  I speak as a father and close observer, not as an expert.  I share things not normally published as the “list” of warning signs. Resources are plentiful today from professionals, which I heartily recommend.  My observations are personal.

My source is largely from my son’s journal entries and our experiences with him, especially over the past ten years. While my son’s discoveries didn’t in the end provide the hope he needed to keep living, they are still relevant to each of us who HOPE for a brighter day; particularly those who have or are considering throwing in the towel.

The COVID-19 pandemic contributed greatly to my son’s outcome, but the path to this end started way before this.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 41 percent of U.S. adults reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition since the pandemic, growing to 52 percent of those aged 25-44, and 75 percent of those aged 18-24.

In another study by the CDC during late June, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse including suicidal ideation. It is not uncommon for issues with mental health and substance abuse to go hand-in-hand.

With hopes that my experience can be of help during this Suicide Prevention Month, and though the sting of my son’s recent passing is still hurting, let me suggest three things to consider.

  1. Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

My son lived with mental health challenges since he was first diagnosed with ADHD as a young boy.  It’s important to understand that over the last twenty years, much more has been learned about prescribed drugs for such challenges.  Mental health is a serious concern. Targeted medical care is essential.  Let me explain.

I have been a diabetic for most of my life.  When I was diagnosed at age 30, it was by a blood test I had for a physical exam.  The general practitioner treated me with prescriptions for years; and every year or so, I would have another A1C test to see where we were.  It wasn’t until my A1C exceeded 12 (extremely high), that my family doctor referred me to a specialist.  Since that time, working with a doctor who specializes in endocrinology, have I been treated with the proper drugs, education, and diet that have brought my A1C down in the low 6’s.  I don’t blame my general family doctor for my living with high blood sugar for many years; he did his best with what he knew.  The point is, he didn’t know enough to treat my illness with exactness, and I didn’t know there was a better way.

The importance of having specialty doctors oversee and monitor mental illness is paramount. My son’s medications were such that if not used properly and under good supervision by medical professionals who are specialists, the side effects would increase dramatically.

In our world of conflict between proper medical care and affordability, MANY are so stressed about the financial implications of proper medical care that they don’t move toward better diagnosis and treatment because they can’t afford it.  Everyone in this situation needs to know that there are help lines and programs available to offset the expenses of this dilemma. Regardless of medical insurance availability, a loved one needs to be the Sherpa in guiding this process. The person suffering from mental illness often cannot see the trees from the forest and needs a Sherpa.  They may resist, but they need to be hooked into a lifeline as soon as possible.

  1. Lovingly Step Over Their Protective Wall

There are always questions after one chooses to die by suicide, of what might have been done by others to prevent it.  Truth is, ideas of prevention MUST come before, rather than following that act.  For many who choose suicide, it is a planned event; a decision they made well before the point of no return. In this planning, it is very typical for the individual to both reach out and also isolate.

In our son’s case, he was very social by nature and really fun to engage with.  In the past few months, he self-isolated and communicated less with his family and many friends.  Isolation from peers leads to lower estimations of self-worth and self-confidence, which can also play a role in the path toward suicide.  It can generally be recognized when self-isolation and lower levels of communication are occurring, and we should all have our senses on alert for these signs.  When this happens, even though our intervention might not change the outcome, it is always worth the effort to step over their walls of isolation and invite ourselves in.  While “love” is not enough, the simple fact that one cares enough to not allow a loved one to shut themself out is powerful medicine.

The idea of one reaching out at the same time of isolation seems paradoxical.  Watch for the reaching out to be in the form of dropping clues of what’s coming.  In our experience with our son, communications were less frequent, but held important clues.  He sent short clips of movies he loved and shared with friends, which were revealing of his pain and were forecasting possible things to come.

One text to a friend, referenced The Never-ending Story, a movie from 1984.  The character, Rockbiter, was lamenting to Atreyu, the boy whose mission it was to defeat the “nothing,” who said while looking at his big strong hands:

“They look like big good strong hands don’t they.  I always thought that’s what they were.  Aagh, my little friends.  The little man with his racing snail.  The nighthob, even the stupid bat.  I couldn’t hold on to them.  The “nothing” moved them right out of my hands.  I failed.  ….. Listen, the nothing will be here any minute.  I will just sit here and let it take me away too.  They look like good strong hands don’t they.”

My son was saying through this text and sharing of this clip that he was trying so hard to hang on.  Watch for these signs as they are often communicated in an incognito way to disguise their true pain. They don’t want to “disappoint” anyone, and at this point are feeling like their life is a burden to those they love.

  1. Faith Has a Place

In my son’s case, he found himself disconnected from traditional faith the last few years of his life, but not divorced from morality and in living a life of goodness.  Faith is a sensitive topic, and though we were open about the different paths we had chosen, we didn’t judge each other for our choices in this regard.  I believe faith of any sort is healthy in pushing away the demons of the day.  Faith and belief in something greater than yourself is worth pursuing.  It wasn’t a lack of faith in a higher power that caused my son to take his own life. But it didn’t help that the opportunities of discussions regarding faith and other forms of spiritual discernment were diminished—by his choice; causing his self-worth and confidence in a brighter future to diminish with it.  It’s worth talking about.

In the end, I heard from many of my friends of faith from many different faith cultures sending loving threads, that, when quilted together made a wonderful blanket of faith I have wrapped myself in.  I have a belief that my son has now found a space for faith. I want to encourage anyone in the midst of their darkest moments to consider faith as a powerful tool in resetting the path toward hope; and to not exclude these healthy conversations as a part of their whole self.

In future articles I will share from my son’s journal entries.  We will discuss such things as love, money, and purpose as relates to mental health and suicide ideology.  I believe these thoughts will establish some insights that are very helpful, if implemented, to create a lifestyle that assists in both holistic living, mental healing, and in overcoming suicidal ideation.

I’ll close with a quote from my son, who wrote a journal of “Lessons Learned” while traveling in Europe with his wife for three months with nothing but a backpack.

“Continually believing that you can reach your dreams in whatever you do is just as important as doing what you do.  This doesn’t discount hard work…..But, belief in yourself, your abilities and your power to bring about great things is essential to actually doing those things in your life.  I used to look at certain ideas, things, movies, etc. and marvel that such a thing could happen.  Then, I would wonder if I could ever do something so great.  There’s nothing wrong with being blown away by something, but I’ve now come to know that there is something wrong with thinking that maybe I could not do such a thing.  It is always within my DNA to be able to create great things.”

My hope is that in sharing our experiences, MANY will come to know that all things are possible to those that believe—-especially the possibility of giving LIFE a chance.

Ethics in a Troubled World (Horasis Meeting)

28 Sep, 2020

Ethics in a Troubled Depersonalized World

Moderated by Dr. Brian J. Grim

We need not look far to see a world at war with ethics. Evils are justified; good is questioned. Living a “congruent life” — where our highest ethical and religious values are matched by our words and deeds — is stretched to the breaking point.

Register and join me and 500 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community (including UN Secretary General Guterres) as we gather virtually to overcome the profound economic, political and social disruptions sweeping the globe.  Modern textbook theory on strategy and corporate planning is based on a world which is flat, highly globalized and defined by multi polar leadership. How shall firms adjust to the new reality of leaderlessness, heightening uncertainty and creeping de-globalization? And, when the COVID pandemic causes outbreaks of unmanageable behavior? How are firms from emerging and established markets shifting their competitive strategies?

Ethical values have been the foundation for states and religions for eons, providing the bedrock for modern laws. The globe is troubled by a pandemic and increased perceptions of racial suppression – ethical values are being stretched. Can a generalized ethics solve the problems of the world? What are the philosophical, political, legal and religious perspectives that must be addressed?

Join us online October 1, 2020, at 10:15 am EDT, 07:15 AM PDT (16:15 PM CET) for an engaging discussion with:

    • • Klaus Moosmayer, Member of the Executive Committee and Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer, Novartis, Switzerland
    • • Tate Nurkin, Founder, OTH Intelligence Group LLC. , USA
    • • David Reiling, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Sunrise Banks, USA
    • • Brahmeshanandacharya Swamiji, Spiritual Leader, India
    • • Verica Trstenjak, Former Judge and Advocate General at Court of Justice of the EU, Slovenia
  • Chaired by
  • • Brian J. Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, USA

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 Unite. Inspire. Create, 500 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community will gather virtually to overcome the profound economic, political and social disruptions caused by Covid-19. The Horasis Extraordinary Meeting offers the conceptual backbone and action platform to advance the recovery – envisioning and implementing novel business models, new political cooperation and deep social cohesion.

We are convinced that the world will not go back to a New Normal using a simplistic resetting of legacy systems – extraordinary times demand an extraordinary transformation.

Oct. 6th Faith & Belief ERGs Zoom Call with Texas Instruments

26 Sep, 2020


What: Community Call for Faith and Belief Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Topic: Bridge-building and goodwill across diversity groups
Featuring: Diversity at TI — Texas Instruments has several faith-based initiatives as part of the TI Diversity Network. Please join us to hear how these groups are promoting bridge-building and goodwill among people from various employee resource groups. More information.
Speakers include: Aaron Friedman, Jewish Initiative Chair | Adeel Khan, Muslim Employee Initiative Chair | Fern Foo, Christian Values Initiative Chair.
When: Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Time: 12 noon EDT; 11:00am CDT; 09:00am PDT
Host: Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF)
Moderator: Kent Johnson
Registration closed [download event’s PPT here]
Join Faith & Belief ERG LinkedIn Group: Join Now
Questions? Email RFBF


The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation host a monthly call with Fortune 500 companies in which they share how they’re becoming more faith-and-belief friendly. They are doing this in ways that not only allow each employee to be authentic to his/her own faith, but builds a workplace community where people’s various faiths and beliefs are welcome and viewed as a source of strength.

Previous calls featured insights from IntelAmerican ExpressAmerican Airlines, Salesforce, DELL and PayPal.

You can down load the Oct. 6th TI presentation here.

Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP

21 Sep, 2020

New research suggests religion produces measurable economic contributions to the common good


ANNAPOLIS, USA and OTTAWA, CANADA – Amid pandemic-related job loss and economic worries, new research suggests there is a sector of Canadian society that plays an important, but often unrecognized, economic role: religion. The Hidden Economy: How Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP, a new report from think tank Cardus, finds that religion’s annual contribution to Canadian society is worth an estimated $67.5 billion. That’s large enough to be the ninth biggest enterprise in the country – ahead of the Bank of Montreal.

The $67.5 billion figure is the mid-range estimate in The Hidden Economy: How Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP. More than half of the $67.5 billion figure comes from the activities of tens of thousands of religious congregations (churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues) in Canada. Nationwide, they have a $35-billion “halo effect” – the value congregations provide to their surrounding communities.

The study was carried out by the veteran father-daughter research team, Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., and Melissa E. Grim, JD.

Canadian Religious Congregations’ Halo Effect

The halo effect of religious congregations is a well-studied phenomenon. For more information on the halo effect in Canada, including municipality-specific calculations, please visit Also see related research on the United States here.

The balance of religion’s estimated $67.5 billion contribution to Canadian society comes through activities related to schooling, health care systems, charities, media, lives saved through congregational substance abuse support programs, as well as kosher and halal food sales.

“Religion is an active force in the public, professional, and private lives of many Canadians and contributes to the common good of all, including those who are not religious,” said Brian Dijkema, vice president of external relations at Cardus. “If religious activity is hindered—through zoning, regulation, taxation, or even intolerance—there are massive economic spill-over effects that negatively affect Canadians as a whole. We all benefit economically when religious life thrives.”

The Hidden Economy: How Faith Fuels Canada’s GDP is freely available online.

In The News

Study says religion contributes billions of dollars to Canadian economy (Flyn Ritchie, Church for Vancouver)

Study Says Religion Contributes $67.5 Billion to Canada’s Economy: Is It True? (Val Wilde – The Friendly Atheist)


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

About Cardus
Cardus is a non-partisan, faith-based think tank and registered charity dedicated to promoting a flourishing society through independent research, robust public dialogue, and thought-provoking commentary. To learn more, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.

Religion in the workplace – a new litmus test for diversity and inclusion

20 Sep, 2020

Join Brian Grim on Zoom this Wednesday at 2:00 PM Eastern Time as we celebrate RFBF’s partner project, Launching Leaders Worldwide. We helped pioneer this interfaith self-reliance course in Manchester UK, which has since gone global!

Amid all of today’s discussion on inclusion and diversity, where does religion belong? World-renowned researcher and speaker Brian Grim, President of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, says religious freedom is becoming a litmus test for whether an organization fully embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion. Please join us to learn about a new openness toward religion in the workplace.

Event Agenda

  • — Brief update on Launching Leaders education initiatives
  • — Presentation by Brian Grim: Religion in the Workplace
  • — Questions and Answers



Graduates Reflecting on Launching Leaders

Disney’s Mulan Misstep: Literacy on religious freedom needed

14 Sep, 2020

Disney’s Mulan Misstep: Literacy on religious freedom needed

Brian J. Grim

Calls for a boycott of Disney’s $200 million blockbuster Mulan are rising, pointing to the danger for companies of not being literate about religious freedom. This news comes as the US prepares to block some exports citing China’s human rights abuses: The US accuses China of forced labour and rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang (BBC).

Headlines, like the following, are not what Disney wanted to have appear at the long awaited release of Mulan, the most expensive ever made directed by a woman.

New York Times: Disney Wanted to Make a Splash in China With ‘Mulan.’ It Stumbled Instead.
Washington Post: ‘Mulan’ enters a battle Disney didn’t want, and My mother may be a victim of China’s concentration camps. Disney’s ‘Mulan’ is a whitewash.
Fox News: Senator pens scathing letter to Disney CEO for filming ‘Mulan’ in China’s Xinjiang amid human rights issues: The film is catching backlash for thanking government entities that are mistreating Uighur Muslims, and Disney’s ‘Mulan’ catches backlash for filming in China’s Xinjiang Province amid human rights issues.
CNN Business: Disney makes controversial move in the credits for ‘Mulan’, and Disney hit by backlash after thanking Xinjiang authorities in ‘Mulan’ credits.
NBC: Disney faces more ‘Mulan’ backlash after film thanks Xinjiang government agencies in credits: The Xinjiang province is home to detention camps that have held Uighur Muslims, where detainees have allegedly been subjected to human rights violations.
AP: Disney criticized for filming ‘Mulan’ in China’s Xinjiang
Yahoo News: Disney film ‘Mulan’ faces backlash amid geopolitical issues.
The Hill: GOP lawmakers want answers from Disney on Mulan, China.

Disney earned no score on the 2020 Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) index released this January by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. While a number of top American companies are known for promoting religiously inclusive workplace environments, Disney was not ranked on this index because they lacked any public statements or acknowledgement of their workplace practices related to religious inclusion.

Companies that are religiously inclusive are better workplaces; they are also better equipped to understand religious dynamics that can positively, or in the case for Disney, negatively impact business.

The current backlash Disney faces concerns giving glowing credit to Chinese communist agencies that are accused of perpetuating what is considered by some cultural genocide in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

The United Nations estimates more than one million members of Muslim minority groups have been incarcerated in what China terms de-radicalization and retraining centers.

Earlier this summer China announced penalties to be imposed on the US envoy for Religious Freedom along with other US legislators and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a bi-partisan panel that advises Congress and the administration on human rights matters in China. The move comes in response to legislation that prompted the US Treasury to sanction officials in China for mass internment, forced labor, coerced sterilizations, and forced renunciations of faith in China’s western region of Xinjiang among Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities.

The US Treasury action follows legislation (H.R. 6210) ensuring that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes.

Religious repression not only is a precursor of greater conflict, as shown in my coauthored book The Price of Freedom Denied (Cambridge Univ. Press), but also a damper on economic growth and sustainability.

For example, in our research — which has been translated into Chinese by Fudan University — we find that religion spurred on by religious freedom annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the US economy. That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries. It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google. And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies. So, you might say, that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the US economy. All of this is made possible because of religious freedom in the US.

By contrast, the Communist Party of China (CPC), the country’s ruling political party, not only prohibits its members from religious affiliation and practice, it has extreme controls put in place nationwide to control all religious expression. The aim is to produce a harmonious society recognizing the CPC ultimate source of the country’s vision, direction and success. Religion is under tight control because, by its very nature, calls for heavenly loyalties that are outside of the CPC’s control.

Of course, the CPC does not view heaven beyond its purview. They seek to determine who the next reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama will be. They determine who can be in the apostolic line of succession, which the Roman Catholic Church views as the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive popes and bishops. They not only remove crosses from churches and minarets from mosques, but raze to the ground churches, mosques and temples deemed to be unauthorized. And, for security’s sake, they have incarcerated up to one million people in the far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, primarily for exhibiting too much devotion to Islam.

Scientific research also shows that the ultimate outcome of high government restrictions on religious freedom is violence. Currently, religion-related violence in China is mostly in the form of the government controls and repression just mentioned. But in the volatile climate China finds itself in today, the data suggest that repression feeds resentment that will ultimately end in destabilizing violence.

All of that is bad for business. Data show that high restrictions on freedom of religion or belief damage or even destroy the World Economic Forum’s pillars of global competitiveness. For example, innovative strength is more than twice as high in countries where governments respect freedom of religion or belief.

One indicator of innovative strength is whether a country’s top entrepreneurs and successful business people stay in a country or leave it. Recent research shows which countries are losing or gaining millionaires through migration, with Australia gaining the most and China losing the most. The chart below shows how this compares with the level of government restrictions on religion and belief in a country.

The data show that China, the country with the highest government restrictions on religion – as measured by the Pew Research Center – is also losing the highest number of millionaires seeking freer, more secure opportunities elsewhere. And Australia, a country with low government restrictions on religion, is benefiting the most from this migration of talent and resources.

China’s ongoing crackdown on religion adds another weight dragging down what has been remarkable economic growth spurred on by the religious openness following the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s-1970s. In China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, religion was outlawed and many people were persecuted for their beliefs. In the 1980s – 2000s there was an openness that resulted in the spread of religion, such that China is now home to the world’s second-largest religious population after India, according to demographic estimates.

Religious freedom matters to Chinese people.

It is important to get past the notion that China is an unreligious country just because the CPC is atheist by constitution. In fact, Pew Research data show that China in 2020 has about 2.5 times more religiously affiliated people (669.3 million) than does the United States (272.7 million). China is home to the world’s largest Buddhist population, largest folk religionist population, largest Taoist population, 7th largest Christian population, and 17th largest Muslim population (ranking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in size) making China one of the world’s most religiously diverse nations—something which is also associated with economic growth.

In particular, the growth of Christianity and the growth of China’s economy may be related, according to a study in the China Economic Review. In the study, Qunyong Wang from the Institute of Statistics and Econometrics, Nankai University, Tianjin, and Xinyu Lin from Renmin University of China, Beijing, find that Christianity boosts China’s economic growth. Specifically, they find that robust growth occurs in areas of China where Christian congregations and institutions are prevalent. Moreover, many of China’s top universities and hospitals used to be missionary institutions.

If China were to deregulate religion, it would win the undying loyalty of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens, increase trust in the CPC, reduce tensions with the US, and set free a new wave of innovation and prosperity.  The bottom line is that religious freedom is both good for business and a safeguard of peace and stability — China’s and the world’s.

Finally, returning to the problems Disney is facing, religious literacy including knowledge of how religion impacts workplaces and marketplaces is sorely need. For an idea of what is involved in such literacy, see the short presentation below.