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Defending Religious Freedom: A Corporate Social Responsibility By Gregory G. Clark For J. Reuben Clark Law Society 2013 Conference Georgetown University Law Center
Religious Freedom under Global Attack “Over the past year, while economic woes captured world headlines, an ongoing crisis of equal breadth and scope frequently went unnoticed. Across the global landscape, the pivotal human right of religious freedom was under escalating attack. To an alarming extent, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief was being curtailed, often threatening the safety and survival of innocent persons, including members of religious minorities.” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 2012 Annual Report http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-and-briefs/annual-report.html
Linkage between Governmental Restrictions and Social Hostilities • One might argue that the best hope of reducing social hostilities related to religion might be the reduction of corresponding governmental discriminations and/or restrictions related to religion. • How easy is it to affect governmental discriminations/restrictions related to religion? • My own experience in seeking religious freedom in Qatar might be instructive.
The Qatar Experience 2003 2005 2012 1994 Ongoing lobbying with Qatari Government by religious leaders and various Ambassadors
The “Legal Recognition” Weapon • Denial of “legal recognition” is a key weapon of some governments to either limit or suppress religious freedom. • “Legal recognition” is often required to: • Open bank accounts; • Lease or build chapels; • Obtain visas for leaders or missionaries; • Import religious materials; and • Proselytize.
Qatar Case Study • How easy is it to affect governmental restrictions related to religion? • It took at least 9 years (1994-2003) of lobbying from religious leaders and various Ambassadors from USA, UK and Vatican for Qatar government to finally grant “official registration” to 6 non-Muslim churches. • Is there a way religious freedom could have been accelerated in Qatar?
Influence of Business Community with Governments • In Qatar, only religious leaders and Ambassadors were lobbying for reform of religious restrictions in Qatar. • What would have happened if foreign corporations, who were doing business (and investing billions of US dollars) in Qatar, had also lobbied on behalf of their expatriate employees?
Influence of Business Community with Governments • Could the business community have accelerated religious freedom in Qatar, for the benefit of their employees, if it had also engaged in lobbying the Qatar government? • Fortunately, Qatar had (and still has) a pro-active Emir who made religious freedom more of a reality in Qatar, after many years, while (unfortunately) the business community stood on the “sidelines”.
Influence of Business Community with Governments • Perhaps the business community in Qatar did not understand its role in promoting human rights, including the most basic human right of religious freedom.
Role of Business Community in Promoting Human Rights • International organizations have played an influential role in promoting human rights, as an integral part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the business community: • United Nations Global Compact (has over 7,300 business and non-business participants); • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; and • International Organization for Standardization’s guidance in ISO 26000:2010 – Social Responsibility.
Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) • United Nations Global Compact Principal 1 Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) • The most basic of these “internationally proclaimed human rights” is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as noted in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) • United Nations Global Compact’s official website proposes “making reasonable accommodations for all employees’ religious observance and practices” as an example of “supporting and respecting human rights through their daily activities.” http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/principle1.html
Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) The economic power corporations exert within communities and on governments can serve as a strong impetus for change where human rights are being denied or are not fully protected. In particular, businesses can become influential catalysts for change in protecting and fostering religious freedom on a global basis. Why would the business community want to engage in promoting religious freedom in countries where they operate?
Religious Freedom is Good for Business • A Boston University empirical study found that laws burdening religion harm economic growth. Hylton, Church and State: An Economic Analysis, 2, 20 (May 2008) • An empirical study done by Harvard also supports the positive effect of religion and religious pluralism on economic growth. Robert J. Barro & Rachel M. McCleary, Religion and Economic Growth, Harvard University, 34-37 (Apr. 8, 2003)
Why is it in Economic Interest of Businesses to Promote Religious Freedom? • Reduced war and violence. War and violence, and the resulting political instability, are bad for most businesses. Dr. Brian Grim found that “when governments and religious groups in society do not erect barriers to religious competition but respect and protect such activities as conversion and proselytism, religious violence is less.” Brian J. Grim, Religious Freedom and Social Well-being: A Critical Appraisal, 2 IJRF 1, 44 (2009).
Why is it in Economic Interest of Businesses to Promote Religious Freedom? • Reduced corruption. Corruption is bad for business and empirical studies confirm that laws and practices that burden religion increase corruption. Lipset, Seymour Martin and Gabriel Salman Lenz; Corruption, Culture, and Markets, in Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, 112-24 (Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, eds., N.Y Basic Books, 2000). • Improved community environments. Churches provide substantial healthcare, education and humanitarian contributions to their communities, which improve the overall community environment in which they operate.
Why is it in Economic Interest of Businesses to Promote Religious Freedom? • Enhanced goodwill and public image. Business will benefit from enhanced goodwill and public image for promoting such a fundamental human right as religious freedom. • Improved ties with like-minded business partners and ethical investment funds. Some partners and investment funds prefer companies that are responsive to human rights.
How Does Religious Freedom Improve Business Productivity? • Improved recruitment and retention. Individuals with key expertise might reject expatriate assignments, or end them early, if the country of assignment restricts their ability to exercise their religion – this will impact productivity. • Improved employee morale. Morale of employees will improve, especially for those with strong religious beliefs, if they can practice their religion – this will improve productivity.
How Does Religious Freedom Improve Business Productivity? • Improved workplace environment. Promoting religious freedom will engender a corporate culture of greater tolerance and less hostility among fellow employees with different religious views – this hostile-free environment will enhance productivity. • Improved communication and collaboration. A work environment that is not plagued by religious intolerance or hostility among colleagues will result in improved communication and collaboration among employees – this will enhance productivity.
How Does Religious Freedom Improve Business Productivity? • Fewer employee claims of religious discrimination. A work environment that promotes religious freedom will be less troubled by the turmoil and costs (time and money) associated with religious discrimination claims – this will improve productivity. • Improved internal goodwill. The goodwill of the company in the eyes of its own employees will be improved for recognizing the importance of life outside the workplace, including religious freedom, which should engender greater loyalty to the company – this will improve productivity.
Additional Benefits from Promoting Religious Freedom • “Strong correlations between religious freedom and numerous other social goods: • protection of other human rights; • gender empowerment; • lower levels of armed conflict; • lower poverty; • greater economic freedom; • overall liveability; • lower income inequality; • higher earned income, and so forth. • Such influences create greater societal stability and a better environment for business operations.” Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke, The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 202-213.
How Can Businesses Engage in CSR Initiatives Related to Religious Freedom? • Joining the United Nations Global Compact and openly support international standards on religious freedom; • Supporting educational projects related to religious freedom and tolerance; • Engaging in dialogue with other companies, nongovernmental organizations, and local and national authorities on preventing religious discrimination and promoting religious freedom, both in the workplace and community;
How Can Businesses Engage in CSR Initiatives Related to Religious Freedom? • Training management and employees on international religious freedom standards; • Ensuring that religious freedom is an integral part of the company’s strategic planning; • Establishing clear corporate policies against religious discrimination including restrictions on religious clothing, prayers, and holy days;
How Can Businesses Engage in CSR Initiatives Related to Religious Freedom? • Requiring business partners, supply chain, sub-contractors, etc. to implement specific policies prohibiting religious discrimination; • Promoting a culture of religious understanding and respect within the workplace; and • Speaking out publicly or in private to relevant authorities in areas where governments are guilty of restricting religious freedom.
Defending Religious Freedom: A Corporate Social Responsibility The business community is uniquely situated to be a powerful ally in promoting and defending religious freedom throughout the world, as part of its CSR initiatives, once it understands it is its best interest to do so.
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative • November 2012 – Commission for Religious Liberty of the Brazil Bar Association – (Sao Paulo) enthusiastically endorsed CSR approach for promoting religious freedom.
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative • December 2012 - Informal coalition formed to promote religious freedom within the Brazilian business community via the CSR-religious freedom initiative. • Coalition comprised of: • Commission for Religious Liberty of the Brazil Bar Association – (Sao Paulo) • International Association for Religious Freedom (IRLA) in Brazil, and • Brazilian Association of Religious Freedom and Citizenship (ABLIRC).
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative • February 2013 – Dr. Brian Grim and Greg Clark briefed General Counsel of United Nations Global Compact on CSR-religious freedom initiative and upcoming CSR-religious freedom events in Brazil in May 2013. • General Counsel for the United National Global Compact requested copies of CSR-religious freedom White Paper and Executive Summary, and suggested that such documents be posted on United National Global Compact website.
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative • February 2013 – Greg Clark engaged in ongoing correspondence with “Local Network” representatives of United National Global Compact in Brazil related to CSR-religious freedom initiative.
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative • May 2013 - Key CSR-religious freedom presentations will be made during the "Festival of Freedom", a major religious freedom event in Brazil, and before key business organizations and possible other religious organizations (Catholics). • Notable participants in these upcoming presentations: • Cole Durham • John Graz • Dr. Brian Grim
Recent DevelopmentsCSR-Religious Freedom Initiative If you desire: • To receive a copy of this presentation; • To receive a copy of the White Paper or Executive Summary on CSR-religious freedom initiative; or • To Collaborate on CSR-religious freedom initiatives within your sphere of influence please contact me ClarkGG@ldschurch.org