J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Business and Religious Freedom

Two different men, one similar story about faith, society, and business while working abroad. Brian Grim, while working in the United Arab Emirates, felt he had many ways to contribute to society, yet when working in neighboring Saudi Arabia, he had much less enthusiasm for work and no real desire to contribute to society outside of work. The difference? His Catholic faith was illegal in Saudi Arabia. Later he would meet Gregory Clark, someone who had experienced certain restrictions on the free exercise of this faith while working in Qatar. These common experiences would ultimately contribute to both men becoming a part of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. The Foundation is founded on the idea that religious freedom, in addition to being a basic human right, is a powerful catalyst for strengthening businesses and promoting economic development.

Brian and Greg with the Archbishop (Cardinal) of São Paulo (Cardinal Don Odilo Scherer)
The actions that enable religious freedom often trigger a chain of other good actions that benefit all parts of a community. Data show that religious freedom is highly correlated with the presence of other freedoms and a variety of positive social and economic outcomes ranging from better health care to higher incomes for women. On a more basic level, respect for reasonable accommodation of religious freedom in the workplace can improve the morale of a company, improve recruitment while increasing retention of valued employees, help with conflict resolution, and create a more productive workplace.
Indeed, Grim’s observations from his personal experiences are mirrored in several recent studies and research regarding religious freedom and business. A study published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion found a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness. The study also corroborated findings from The Price of Freedom Denied (Grim & Finke, Cambridge University Press) that religious freedom is a key ingredient to peace and stability. Where stability exists, business operations are more predictable, especially in emerging and new markets.
Removing impediments to religious freedom can also facilitate other types of freedom and reduce corruption. A simple comparison between the Pew Research Center’s 2011 Government Restrictions on Religion Index with the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index shows eight of the ten most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty. Perhaps this is because over-regulation often accompanies certain types of religious restrictions that directly limit or harm economic activity. For example, in Muslim-majority countries, religious restrictions can include legal barriers for certain import and export industries, such as the halal food market and outright bans of certain blockbusters from the film industry. Instability associated with high and rising religious restrictions and hostilities can also influence young entrepreneurs to take their talents elsewhere.

Brian and Greg with a delegation meeting with Vice President of Brazil
(Vice President Temer)
An alarming majority of people in the world currently live with high religious restrictions and hostilities (76% according to the latest Pew Research study). While this research does not suggest religious freedom should be the sole or even main solution to a struggling economy, it does show that religious freedom is positively correlated with economic success. This gives business owners the unique opportunity to act in their own self-interest of enhancing their bottom line by advocating the most basic, fundamental, and important human right. 
To learn more about the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation visit: http://religiousfreedomandbusiness.org
Gregory Clark is the JRCLS Area Director for South America. He provides oversight, encouragement, and training to chapter chairs in South America. He also coordinates South America activities with JRCLS management in the U.S.
Brian Grim is the President of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, an associate scholar at the Religious Freedom Project of Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, a TEDx speaker, and an expert on global religion. Prior to becoming the Foundation’s president Brian directed the largest social science effort to collect and analyze global data on religion at the Pew Research Center, Washington DC’s premier “fact tank.”

By Amelia Martinez-DeLaMare

Posted: September 5, 2014