The Value of Religious Organizations and Businesses to SocietyBy Travis Weber
America is made up of religious people. Many of those religious people are business-owners. When they go to work each day, they cannot check their beliefs at the door, but rather must let them infuse many aspects of their work.
The decision of businesses to adhere to, and affirmatively advance, the religious principles of their owners and themselves in the operation of their businesses reflects long-held religious tenets regarding the interaction between faith and work. Under a variety of religious doctrines, a person’s participation in the economic activity of his or her community can involve just as full a part of exercising religion as solitary prayer, attending church, keeping the Sabbath, or seeking to bring one’s faith to others.
For example, the Christian concept of vocation leads many to live a life of faith in the world by engaging in work that allows them to realize their God-given talents while at the same time improving the world, serving their community, and honoring God. The Jewish Halacha, or Jewish law, creates an obligation to conduct one’s business dealings in a “holy” manner, with honesty and integrity, faithful to the Torah.
We must work to protect the rights of persons to adhere to and pursue their religious beliefs in all aspects of their lives, regardless of the legal structures they use to organize their commercial activities.
Indeed, we should celebrate religion in businesses, for religion motivates much good done through for-profit businesses, and through them many jobs are created and maintained, benefitting all of society. The truth is that many Americans believe that businesses should have a conscience—they know this matters for how a business treats its employees, and whether it operates with integrity. This issue cuts across political lines; conservatives believe businesses should have a conscience on marriage and sexuality, and liberals believe businesses should have a conscience when it comes to environmental issues. We all agree that businesses should have ethics. The whole field of “corporate social responsibility” has developed from the notion of ethical business practices. Numerous lawsuits against large, for-profit corporations alleging human rights abuses overseas are evidence that many want corporations to have a conscience.The fact is that profit making should not exclude a business from having ethical standards and a conscience, whether for large corporations or family owned businesses.