Ethix Forum – Issue 42

Often religion is regarded as a taboo subject in places of business. Yet since religion is the source for making decisions of right and wrong for may people, should this taboo be reconsidered in light of the ethical failures on business? If so, what guidelines would you suggest?

As a Christian, there is no question in my mind the Bible speaks to the kinds of ethics and integrity that we need in our post-Enron marketplace.

However, after 35 years as a lawyer involved in businesses of all kinds, I believe that scriptural values in this regard need to be lived out on a daily basis in our business dealings, and not advertised as a badge of merit.

I have seen too many people use their Christian faith as a marketing tool (“Trust me, I’m a Christian”), and who have little or no regard for the kinds of ethics and integrity the Bible speaks of. This is surely not just a problem in the Christian community. The use of religion to make a quick buck is a temptation in all communities of faith.
Chi-Dooh (Skip) Li
Seattle, WA

Editor’s Note: see also the reference in the News section to an op-ed Skip wrote in the Seattle PI about religion and public discourse.

I do believe that religion should be considered in the work place.

As a matter of fact, a very positive way of understanding the impact of coworkers’ faith and of how they make decision can come from actively learning about each others’ faith and practices.

In our office, we have a few different Christian denominations and one Jewish co-worker. I have discovered that by asking in a positive way about their beliefs not only have I established a good relation with them, I also can understand some of the reasons they do some things.
Vatren Jurin
Pleasant Plains, IL

I get worried when people mix their fundamental religious beliefs (and I don’t mean only the Christian right) with business. If you mix your beliefs in such a way that you appear to be imposing your views on others, or insisting on them, that creates problems in the workplace. If you use them to operate in an ethical way, I can’t complain about that. But you need to be very careful.
Vinton Cerf
Ashburn, VA

I believe the taboo on religious discussion in the workplace should be reconsidered, and The White House has published the best guidelines I know of. They are directed to all employees of the federal government, but they can be applied equally to the private sector. Titled simply, Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace.
Larry Merk
Boise, ID

Editor’s Note: these guidelines were published in 1997. A search in Google turned up several other copies, including this same page on an archived White House site:

The moral standards established in most of the major religions of the world have much in agreement once the inquirer gets above the entry-level threshold. This is not to say that all religions are the same because they have developed similar ethical standards. If one can separate the religious “requirements” from the ethical standards taught by that religion, then one has the basis for principles/standards to be recognized among those living on this earth and there is then room for common application within the society without requirements to implement or conform to a particular religious belief. The danger is convincing one’s belief structure that the ethical standards/principles may OR may not extend to consequences beyond this worlds’ societies … to another life.
James H. Gill, Jr
Baton Rouge, LA