A Renewed Focus on Religious Freedom

PROVO, Utah – Nov 10, 2021 – As a faith-oriented school, the BYU Marriott School of Business incorporates religious principles as a fundamental part of students’ learning. This unique component of a BYU Marriott education was magnified recently from September 20 to October 15 as visiting fellows from the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation (RFBF) helped students understand how they can bring their whole souls to the workplace and foster religious freedom and diversity.

The RFBF fellows’ visit was arranged by Brigitte Madrian, dean of BYU Marriott. Madrian met members of the RFBF at a recent conference and, inspired by their work, invited the group to Provo. The RFBF fellows focused their efforts at BYU Marriott on sharing how companies and institutions value diversity, unity, and belonging. Dr. Brian Grim, president of the RFBF, hopes more business leaders will include religion in their definitions of diversity and belonging.

“Not enough people understand the big changes happening in corporate America where religion is now a part of diversity,” says Grim. “Many companies have a growing movement of allowing employees to bring their whole souls to work, not just their whole selves.” The mission of the RFBF is to help both employers and employees understand how to be comfortable and effective with incorporating religious diversity in the workplace.

Grim says teaching the RFBF’s principles at BYU Marriott was a natural fit because of the importance of faith in the school’s curriculum and to the student body. “Faith is an integral part of students’ lives here,” he adds. “Students are looking to careers where they can incorporate their faith and apply their beliefs.”

BYU Marriott students learned from the RFBF fellows through class presentations, workshops, and focus groups. As a result, students say they now know more of what to look for when choosing employment. “Company culture has always been a big priority for me when searching for a job, including learning how women and people of color are treated,” explains Senah Park Kearl, a senior from Herriman, Utah, and copresident of the BYU Marriott Student Council. “The RFBF fellows opened my eyes to also including religious freedom as something I should prioritize when looking at companies.”

Going forward, Park Kearl says the Student Council anticipates implementing RFBF principles on behalf of the student body. Some of the council’s ideas include incorporating religious freedom issues in case competitions, potentially hosting a student conference, and continuing conversations with faculty and administration about how to integrate these ideas into course curriculum. Efforts to expand religious freedom education at BYU Marriott will also extend to professors, who, in addition to curriculum considerations, are exploring research opportunities in the field.

BYU Marriott leadership’s goal is that the RFBF lessons will be valuable beyond students’ time in the classroom and continue into their professional careers. BYU Marriott associate dean John Bingham wants students to be examples of diversity, unity, and belonging wherever they are, even after graduation. “Our school leadership hopes that upon leaving BYU Marriott, students will have the desire to create or join employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on religious diversity in the organizations where they work,” Bingham says. He explains that ERGs are prevalent in many companies and are designed to help coworkers discuss how to protect and support everyone in a company, no matter their unique backgrounds.

While the RFBF fellows were only on campus for a month, BYU Marriott looks forward to the continual impact the fellows will have on students. “The RFBF fellows’ visit will be the beginning of a larger conversation about religious freedom at BYU Marriott,” Bingham continues. “The connections made between the RFBF fellows and the BYU Marriott community raised awareness about the powerful vehicle religion can be for fostering moral, ethical, and socially beneficial practices across all different types of organizations. Our faculty and students’ vision of what is possible in the workplace as religious freedoms become more prevalent and influential has expanded as a result of this collaboration.”

RFBF president Dr. Brian Grim presenting at BYU Marriott. Photo by BYU Photo.
RFBF president Dr. Brian Grim presenting at BYU Marriott. Photo by BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller