Brian Grim on Religious Liberty & Business
Date: September 28th, 2014

Is religious liberty good for business?  Can business people be enticed into caring about the rights of conscience?  Brian Grim, president and founder of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, explains why such matters should be of concern to entrepreneurs and how commercial leaders can be motivated to promote such a basic human right.

Our conversation starts out with penguins but quickly moves towards the rationale behind Brian’s new venture, his foundation promoting religious freedom via an outreach to business enterprises.  Tony asks about where the idea came from and how Brian went about setting it up.  He details some of the steps and lays out a couple of the initial ventures that his organization has been undertaking.  We also explore Brian’s deep background, finding out how a kid who wanted to be an astronaut and was on the waiting list at the US Air Force Academy ends up traveling the world promoting religious freedom.

We then dive into the topic of religious liberty more generally and Brian lays out why this particular freedom is important to believers and businesses.  As a demographer of religion, Brian speaks to the various trends and changes that have been taking place across the world’s spiritual landscape.  He notes that it is not just that religion is expanding via conversion, but changes can also be traced to fertility demographics.  The religions that are also growing tend to be faiths that “ask something of their members,” an observation that is congruent with last week’s podcast guest, Larry Iannaccone.  Brian peppers his general observations with remarks about the Uyghurs and Buddhists in western China.  We also spend some time discussing Brazil, a country that ranks as being more religiously free than the United States and that has seen a renaissance of religious activity in recent decades.  Brian shares his discussions with the vice president of Brazil and makes a few observations that are consistent with Tony’s research from two decades ago.

The second half of our interview investigates the role that businesses can (and do) play in promoting religious freedom.  Brian illustrates his argument that commercial enterprises are a vital link in the struggle for religious liberty with various stories, including what has been happening in Indonesia.  In that country, which requires citizens to be a member of a religion, businesses have been instrumental in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding, including initiatives that allow inter-faith companies get married.  This prompts Tony to wonder why businesses in the US try to stay out of such potentially controversial subjects, noting that businesses that do wear their faith openly (e.g., Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A) have been under public scrutiny and derision in some quarters.  Brian offers his thoughts on the topic noting how religious freedom has become highly politicized in the US where the “separation of church and state” has been asserted in many different venues — both public and private.

Brian offers more examples of how the blending of religious and the freedom to express one’s conscience has very positive effects for business.  He uses Kellogg’s, Ford, and Abercrombie & Fitch as examples.  He also discusses how he “sells” the idea of religious freedom to a variety of commercial interests around the globe.  We finish with Brian’s thoughts about where this all is heading.  Are there reasons to be optimistic about religious human rights in the near future?  Brian comes down as an optimist.  Recorded: September 23, 2014.


Brian Grim’s bio at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

The Senim Foundation (also established by Brian Grim).

The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, by Brian Grim and Roger Finke.

The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography, by Todd Johnson and Brian Grim.

Yearbook of International Religious Demography, by Brian Grim and others.

The World Religion Database, by Todd Johnson and Brian Grim.

Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project.


Roger Finke on Religious Persecution.

Theodore Malloch on Spiritual Capital and Virtuous Business.

Religious Liberty & Political Flourishing: A Panel Discussion.

Religious Liberty & Economic Prosperity: A Panel Discussion.

Thomas Farr on Religion, Religious Liberty, and US Diplomacy.

Timothy Shah on the Case for Religious Liberty.

Allen Hertzke on Religious Liberty.

Will Inboden on Religious Liberty, Foreign Policy, and the Arab Spring.

Russ Roberts & Anthony Gill on Religion and Religious Liberty.

Ani Sarkissian on Religious Liberty in the Post-Soviet World.

Jonathan Fox on Religion & State around the World.

Anthony Gill on the Political Origins of Religious Liberty.

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