Gerald Groff was once an employee of a large organization, which expanded its weekly hours to include Sunday shifts. Gerald did not wish to work on Sunday due to religious reasons, so he asked for an accommodation – ultimately, he was rejected. He filed a lawsuit, and according to Christian legal organization, First Liberty, “The Court held that federal law requires workplaces to accommodate their religious employees unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense on the business,” adding, “This decision means that more employers will be legally required to respect their religious employees by granting them accommodations.” The ruling affects companies with 15+ employees.
This court decision represents another positive development for religious freedom in the workplace, an important area, especially in corporate cultures that do not welcome faith perspectives and even where Christians might feel ostracized.
I spoke with Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom at the recent National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando, who oversees ADF’s Viewpoint Diversity Score, which released its second annual Business Index in May. The ADF website notes:
The Business Index is the first comprehensive benchmark designed to measure corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom. It scored 75 publicly traded corporations in its year-two edition across forty-two performance indicators.
The site states: “Eight companies increased their scores year-over-year,” but, “only two scored over 25% out of 100% possible in their respect for speech and religion. That means millions of everyday Americans are at risk of cancelation or punishment for their views.”
Recently, a conference called the Faith@Work Conference was sponsored by an organization called the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. According to a Religion News article, Foundation President Brian Grim “said its conference drew more than 250 people, with 50 companies represented — more than half of them Fortune 500 firms…”
The article referred to faith-based small groups, called, “employee resource groups,” or ERG’s. It says: “The conference brought together Christian chaplain networks, human resources staffers and members of ERGs that can include people of faith and no faith.”
Religion News noted:
In a breakout session, Mark Whitacre, an executive at Coca-Cola Consolidated, touted the hundreds of people who annually had become new or recommitted Christians after meeting with corporate chaplains or attending prayer groups at the bottler’s distribution and production sites.
In an interview, Whitacre said that he usually attends conferences of Christian groups focused on religious inclusion in the workplace. But he also appreciates the range of perspectives expressed at the Faith@Work gatherings.
Another conference speaker was Tim Schabel of AZZ, described as a “metal-coating company.” According to the article, “he said the use of spiritual advisers from the Marketplace Chaplains organization was ‘one of the biggest tools in the toolbox’ to help employees when they needed a listening ear, including during the pandemic.”
Union University, a Southern Baptist-affiliated school in Jackson, TN, held a Faith in the Marketplace conference recently, according to the school’s website, which featured another representative from Coca-Cola Consolidated: CEO, Frank Harrison. The site related:
Soon after coming into leadership at Coca-Cola Consolidated, Harrison realized that he would one day be held accountable for the influence that the company has had for God.
As he began to pray about this legacy, a man mentioned the influence of chaplain ministries within secular workplaces. After this, Harrison placed the company’s first chaplain at a plant in Nashville, and he soon realized the great benefit of these chaplain ministries.
“A few months later, we got a call from our HR people that said, ‘Frank it’s incredible what’s happening here,’” Harrison said. “Today, we have about 80 chaplains working with 17,000 employees and their family members.”
The article says, “Harrison finished the lecture by describing the purpose statement of Coca-Cola Consolidated, which states its purpose is to honor God in all they do, to serve others, to pursue excellence and to grow profitably.”
This topic area provides reminders; one is: as you sow, you shall reap – business leaders should care not only about profitable companies, but profitable lives of their employees. Unfortunately, we live in an age where those who want to integrate faith into their life and work, specifically Christians, may find their expressions of faith limited, while points of view that are offensive to that faith perspective are championed.
Faith ideally should be a key element of workplace culture – companies should reinforce employees who desire to glorify God; employees who will put Him first, put others (customers) first, do their work with excellence (as unto the Lord), and are concerned about being morally upright. If a Christian is living according to the principles of the Scriptures, who wouldn’t want that type of employee? It’s important to recognize that the faith piece has many benefits, because it is related to a person’s core beliefs, purpose, and performance.