NewsNotables – Issue 42

Religion’s Place in Public Discourse

Chi-Dooh Li, Special to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 1, 2005
The New York Times gave front-page coverage to the last illness, death and funeral service of Pope John Paul II, and to the process to the accession of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pope. Not even the assassination of President John Kennedy and Lyndon’s Johnson’s succession to the presidency rated this kind of prolonged banner headline coverage.

The Times and other news media brought to the forefront of our morally confused postmodern culture an extraordinary man of principle and goodness. John Paul II was truly a prince among men, in every sense of the term. An estimated 2 billion people watched John Paul’s funeral on television, believed to be the largest TV audience ever.

More importantly, The Times coverage affirmed, perhaps unwittingly, an enormously important principle rejected by so many in our culture: that the voice of religion rightfully belongs in the public square.

Does a Pew Fit in Your Cubicle?

Nancy Chandross, ABC News Career Center, May 6, 2005
“Human resources managers are realizing that employees, especially in a time of crisis, have needs that a chaplain or a spiritual person can address,” according to Ron Klimp, a Michigan-based chaplain. Klimp believes that recognizing these needs makes good business sense. His clients have noticed an increase in loyalty and a drop in absenteeism after employing the pastor’s nonprofit group, Workplace Chaplains.

They have dealt with people who were suicidal and intervened in a way that prevented the suicide, a person who was threatening workplace violence and other crisis situations.

There’s a growing movement to encourage people to merge work and religion. There are annual conferences promoting faith in the workplace, books published on the topic and Web sites providing tips for mixing faith with the workday.

Religion Poses Challenges — Offers Benefits in the Workplace

Lisa Roner, The Ethical Corporation,, May 3, 2005
For generations, Americans have considered religion taboo in the workplace. Religion in the workplace poses challenges, but also offers benefits. As religion becomes more visible in the workplace, employers face new challenges to accommodate the beliefs of an ethnically diverse workplace with tolerance and without bias.

Workplace diversity experts say the increased interest in religion in the workplace reflects a convergence of social trends. In a 2004 Gallup poll, 59% said religion was “very important” in their lives. At the same time, a nationwide study conducted by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding has found that 66% of workers feel there is a religious bias and discrimination in the workplace. Experts say the growing emphasis on ethics in the post Enron business world is creating an environment where the demonstration of employee’s moral and religious beliefs is more accepted and expected, in the workplace.

“Allowing people to be ‘authentic’ at work-regardless of which faith, if any, they affiliate themselves with-makes for happier and more productive employees and, ultimately, for a more profitable company”, says Martin Rutte, with Center for Spirituality and the Workforce at the St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia.

Air Force Probes Religious Bias at Academy

Mike Mount, CNN Washington Bureau, May 5, 2005
The U.S. Air Force will appoint a task force to review policy and guidance concerning religious respect and tolerance at the academy. Complaints of religious discrimination have prompted the academy to require all cadets, faculty and staff members to take a course on religious sensitivity.

“We have concluded that both the specific violations and the promotion of a culture of official religious intolerance are pervasive, systemic and evident at the very highest levels of the academy’s command structure,” said the report from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The task force is expected to examine academy commanders who may “enhance or detract from a climate that respects both the free exercise of religion and the establishment clauses of the First Amendment,” according to an Air Force statement.

Faithful Are Carving Niche in the Workplace

Faye Fiori, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2005
Pushed primarily by evangelical Christians, faith is finding a growing presence in corporations that for years have been resistant to religious expression, including such companies as AOL, Intel, American Express, American Airlines and Ford. Companies are allowing employees to sing the Lord’s praises according to strict rules at lunch and on breaks, share Bible verses and advertise religious events on the company internet and invite inspirational speakers to read scripture in the corporate auditorium. Proselytizing is not permitted.

The introduction of religion is changing the workplace atmosphere. Though it frees Christians to bring their “whole selves” to work, it troubles many who are unaccustomed to seeing a Bible on a desk or hearing a religious sounding comment from a peer.

Since the 1980s, employers have allowed workers with common interests, including gays and lesbians, military families and people with shared ethnic backgrounds, to form “diversity groups”. Some companies believe the policy has improved the bottom line, helped recruitment, retention and productivity. So when Christians asked to be included in the trend, many companies saw it as an extension of an idea that has served them well.

By Roger Eigsti
Board President,
Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics