J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Dr. Brian J. Grim Introduces a New Way to Advance
Religious Freedom Through the Corporate Pledge

Dr. Brian J. Grim, President and Founder of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation (RFBF), taught attendees at a fireside in November that religious freedom is not just good for the believer, it’s good for businesses and for the countries in which they operate.  Dr. Grim graciously agreed to speak at the event when he was in town to celebrate the birth of his granddaughter, Claire Olivia. It was hosted by the LDS Santa Margarita, California, Stake.

L-R: Jeffrey Shields, Chair of the Religious Freedom
Committee; President Sterling Brennan, Santa
Margarita Stake; Dr. Brian Grim; Bishop Jeff
Robinson; Dr. Andrew Grimm, son of Dr. Brian Grim
and father to Claire Olivia
In 2014, Dr. Grim left his position at the Pew Research Center to dedicate his livelihood to convince businesses and the countries in which they operate that ensuring religious expression to their employees and citizens would result in socioeconomic benefits. Grim travels the world, encouraging business to adopt and sign a “Corporate Pledge in Support of Freedom of Religion or Belief” (FoRB). The pledge reflects a company’s commitment to take reasonable steps to ensure that working there does not put it’s  employees at odds with their deeply held religious convictions. The pledge sends two clear messages: That employees can work there without changing who they are, and that the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others. In practice, for example, FoRB allows employees to feel comfortable wearing religious symbols or clothing to work (i.e. cross, yarmulkes, hijabs), offers meals that meet religious criteria at company events (i.e. kosher, vegetarian, halal), or allows for reasonable accommodations for Sabbath day and religious holiday observance.

So how does FoRB benefit a business? To name a few, making reasonable religious accommodations improves recruitment, retention, loyalty and morale, intra-company communication, and productivity. It also potentially reduces religious based litigation and accompanying reputational harm (i.e. when Abercrombie & Fitch refused to hire Samantha Elauf because she wore a hijab to an interview). Businesses who accommodate religious beliefs are viewed favorably by “Best Places to Work” competitions and Corporate Social Responsibility Groups like the U.N. Global Compact. For a more detailed disucssion of the benefits of FoRB, and to see examples of the pledge, see http://religiousfreedomandbusiness.org/corporate-pledge.

As evidence of how religious freedom helps business and the countries in which they operate, Dr. Grim shared the amazing history of Kellogg’s Cereal. John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg were brothers from a Seventh-day Adventist family in Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey was encouraged by his church to train in medicine. After graduating, he worked at Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, which offered natural remedies for illnesses. As part of the brothers’ religion, they didn’t drink coffee or eat meat—staples of the American breakfast in the 1800s. In order to find a breakfast more compatible with their religious beliefs, and to provide healthier options to the patients at the Institute, John Harvey created Cornflakes, which became an immediate national success in the late 1800s. Over forty other rival manufacturers soon sprouted up, including Charles W. Post who was impressed with Kellogg’s all-grain diet. Think on this: That bowl of Cornflakes you ate this morning was the result of a country that allowed religious diversity, that realized that we are stronger as a people when we don’t separate who we are and what we do.

Dr. Grim also showed a compelling video entitled “Faith by the Numbers” (http://faithcounts.com/report/), in which he states: “In a country where we too often hear about what divides us, it might be time to talk about what unites us and supports us.” He then quantified the overwhelming benefit that faith provides to the United States. A small sampling of the numbers: Religions in the United States make a 1.2 trillion dollar contribution to the United States economy every year; there are over 344,000 congregations throughout the United States that provide centers for education, job training, charity, child care and social events; congregations fund over 1.5 million social programs, and gather together more than 7.5 million volunteers. According to Grim, “the socioeconomic impact to religion on the U.S. can’t be overstated. Whether directly or indirectly, whether we realize it or not, religion’s influence positively impacts all of us in substantial in measureable ways, and there is nothing divisive about that.”

For more information on how you can help, go to religiousfreedomandbusiness.org.

By Julie Smith, Media Committee

Posted: January 31, 2017