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In light of recent court cases regarding religious freedom in the workplace, one organization has developed a “Corporate Pledge” in order to offer private businesses guidance on how best to protect this right in their own corporate structures.

The pledge, announced at an event entitled “Religious Freedom and Business: The Way Forward,” was developed by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation (RFBF) and with the intention of fomenting a proper understanding of religion and the workplace--often colloquially referred to as the relationship between ‘church and cubicle.’

“[Religious liberty is] not only good for business...but it is also an essential condition for peaceful coexistence,” explained Dr. Charles C. Haynes, Vice President of the Newseum Institute, which hosted the event at its conference center in Washington, DC.

The pledge, which focuses primarily on employer/employee relations (example: EEOC vs. Abercrombie & Fitch), rather than the relationship between private businesses and the government (examples: Hobby Lobby, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Elane Photography, and Arlene’s Flowers) contains four “guiding principles:”

  1. “Protecting Sustainable and Innovative Business Through Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief”
  2. “Non-discrimination and non-harassment”
  3. “Religious Accommodation and Inclusion”
  4. “Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Our Communities”

Grim has published an extensive amount of research on religious liberty. His 2007 work, “The Price of Freedom Denied,” explores the inverse relationship between religious freedom and religiously-motivated terrorism. RFBF’s most recent report “Changing Religion, Changing Economies” addresses the potential futures of global commerce in an increasingly religious world.

“Where religious freedom and diversity are protected, long-term economic growth is more likely,” explained Grim, later adding, “The freedom to be who you are, wherever you are is one of the great sources of innovation.”

The idea that religion and religious freedom are good for businesses and markets is nothing new.

Keynote speaker at the event was former Oregon Republican Senator Gordon H. Smith, whose address focused on America’s legacy of religious liberty, quoting from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, before offering an analysis of the “right of conscience” encompassed by the enumerated rights in the First Amendment.

Unfortunately “what used to be self-evident, no longer is. And it falls to us to speak up and protect the freedom of religion,” lamented the former legislator, now President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

Following the keynote was a panel discussion which focused on the role of religious freedom in employer/employee interactions and a recent effort by a coalition of Georgia businesses to block a forthcoming religious freedom bill. In response to the latter, Smith referred listeners to a compromise statute between the Mormon Church and LGBT activists passed in the Beehive State last year.

However, the panel struggled to address one reporter’s question about “protecting employees from the employer’s beliefs,” using Hobby Lobby as an example. Where most of the panelists contended that the situation could be resolved by “communication” between parties in the hiring process, the answers fundamentally missed the point of the case, which was one of government coercion, rather than that of an employer.

Today’s event was a welcome one, emphasizing the need for proactive, good-faith communication about religion among employers and employees,” said Matthew Hawkins, Coalitions Director at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He continued, saying:

“However, some common fallacies about domestic religious freedom conflicts were not adequately addressed during the Q&A period…Hobby Lobby [does not] harm the employees of religious business owners. The particulars of these conflicts do matter and it doesn’t serve our public discourse well to get them wrong.”

Also at the event was Tennenbaum, a “secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice,” by providing educational resources and training programs.

CEO Joyce S. Dubensky told the audience that religious freedom is important for workplaces because, “employees and customers have beliefs and [those beliefs] are relevant...it is in a company's self interest to practice [religious freedom] and there are practical ways of doing it.”

“Religion can influence whether [companies] get the right team, the right marketing and the right product,” said Dubensky, adding that religion can either “derail” a global company or help it succeed.

The idea that religion and religious freedom are good for businesses and markets is nothing new. According to the Acton Institute, Adam Smith also posited similar ideas in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

“Smith argued that the market promoted virtues such as responsibility, honesty, frugality, ability, and self-control. In the quest for acquisition of wealth and power, these virtues are needed to succeed. In times past, there was no such channeling mechanism or incentive of the market to harness virtue. The rich and powerful depended upon deception and privilege in the pre-commercial era.”

In other words, Christian and moral virtues mediate the competing vices of cronyism and over-regulation. This implies that religious freedom is a necessary pre-condition for markets to be ethical, virtuous, and prosperous.

Also in attendance were Christian author and thinker, Os Guiness, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein, and representatives from the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and the American Jewish Congress.

Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religion and culture. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate has previously written for World Magazine, The Washington Times, Catholic News Service, Patheos, Ethika Politika, and The Christian Post. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.