By Joyce S. Dubensky
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
The decision effectively permits the deeply held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby CEO and founder David Green and his wife to be institutionalized as corporate policy. As such, this decision supports their personal beliefs but will also impinge on the beliefs and practices of some of the corporation’s employees.
This case presented hard questions on how to ensure religious freedom for both employers and employees and, ultimately, how to balance the Greens’s freedom of religion with the right of employees to believe differently. In prioritizing the beliefs of the Greens, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that is likely to have a myriad of consequences, some unintended.
Tanenbaum’s practical programs bridge religious differences for hundreds of thousands of teachers & students, employers & employees, doctors & patients and peacemakers combating armed conflict across the globe.
We train corporate executives to manage people with diverse religious beliefs in a way that benefits the company and the employee. Our 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion found that companies committed to accommodating religious diversity are far more likely to attract and retain the best talent. For example, when companies provide flexibility for religious practices, their employees report higher job satisfaction. And when they have clear policies on religious discrimination, their employees are less likely to be looking for a new job. The Hobby Lobby decision may undercut such successes when companies opt to follow its dictates.
Moving forward, we predict that the business case for supporting religious diversity – and preventing the religious beliefs of any one group from overriding the beliefs of others – will motivate the most successful corporate leaders to reject the model established by the Hobby Lobby case. When that happens, freedom of religion will be protected while employees of all religious beliefs — and none — will feel respected and included in the workplace.
Joyce S. Dubensky is the CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular, non-sectarian organization that combats religious prejudice and promotes mutual respect.