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Parishioners pray during Ash Wednesday service at the St. Aloysius Catholic Church, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Detroit.
Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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Religious diversity belongs in the public square — and in your business

For the past two years I have engaged in countless conversations with business and religious leaders about faith being a dimension of diversity. Many companies are finding that employees who can bring their whole, authentic selves into the workplace are happier, more productive and more likely to deliver on company objectives.

According to a recent Associated Press examination of the Fortune 100 companies, more than 20% of the organizations have formed or allowed to be established faith-based employee resource groups (ERGs) designed to tap into the increased desire of workers to bring their beliefs with them to work.

In her piece on the power of religious diversity in the workplace, Deseret News journalist Mya Jaradat interviewed Brian Grim, president and founder of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. Grim shared that “While companies have been concerned with diversity for decades, religion is the next big thing in diversity.”

Grim was quick to point out to Jaradat, “‘religious diversity’ doesn’t just apply to people of faith. It includes atheists, agnostics and humanists as well.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated, “All voices need to be heard in the public square. Neither religious nor secular voices should be silenced.” When each individual can share their authentic, best self with the community or group all will experience the power of meaningful contribution and personal fulfillment.

Grim told me in an interview for my “Inside Sources” program on KSL NewsRadio, “Corporate America is at a tipping point toward giving religion similar attention to that given the other major diversity categories.”

Leading companies are joining the faith-as-a-dimension-of-diversity movement, including organizations such as Tyson Foods, American Express, Intel, Goldman Sachs, Target, Facebook, Dell, American Airlines, Apple and Walmart. Some employers have established comprehensive interfaith ERGs, while others have worked to accommodate stand-alone groups for various faith traditions.

The impact of faith in the public square cannot be contained solely within businesses, homes or places of worship. Communities are recognizing that in an era when trust is low, especially toward government, faith-based organization can play a significant role in strengthening community.

Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Peter Grunert and Devin Murphy work for the Bridgespan Group, a management and consulting nonprofit, in its New York office. They recently published a study on elevating the role of faith-inspired impact in society: “Considering trends of religious disaffiliation in America, you might be surprised to learn that faith-based organizations deliver 40% of vital human services across six representative cities.” They continue, “Indeed, faith-inspired impact remains a bulwark of support in the United States — and the differential importance of faith in Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities might offer opportunities for social sector actors to raise their impact where it matters most.”

The three took on myths about the role of faith and faith-based organizations in improving community outcomes and how the secular and the spiritual can combine to make a difference for all citizens.

Their study suggests that one solution might be to build bridges across secular-anchored funding and faith-inspired impact. They invite those interested in better outcomes to, “View faith-inspired organizations as brokers of trust within communities.”

David Dodson, an active interfaith player and catalyst for social change within the North Carolina community, was quoted in the Bridgespan Group study saying, “As a means for intersecting with communities that are rooted in race and ethnicity, faith-inspired organizations that are governed, run, and accountable to the people they serve can be excellent partners for funders who wish to build authentic connections and partnerships with underrepresented communities.”

The trust inherent in local, community-centered, faith-based organizations can serve to facilitate crucial conversations and engagement on a wide array of issues from embracing vaccines and immunization to fostering early education, job skills and financial literacy. It is also clear that the communication channels, ready volunteer base and common commitment to make a difference found in faith groups does indeed make a difference for individuals and neighborhoods.

Faith cannot and should not be banished from the public square, nor should it be sequestered in individual homes, mosques, synagogues or churches. A pluralistic society accepting of people of all faiths, and of no faith, brings greater strength and understanding to the world.

Valuing the faith of employees and allowing workers to bring their faith with them into the workplace makes for more motivated workers and better businesses. Engaging with faith groups to deliver services and solve problems in their communities provides a better way to lift all who live there.

The first freedoms established in the First Amendment are central to the vitality and vibrancy of the American experience. More than just tolerating differences, we should be celebrating such differences and encouraging people to bring their diversity of faith — their whole selves — into the public square.

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