Making an economic case for the impact of religious freedom may seem odd, but in fact it's quite sensible, one advocate emphasized this year.
Brian J. Grim, who earlier this year left his job as a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center to become president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, emphasized the point at the American Enterprise Institute's leadership summit in September, according to the Christian Post.
"Why should businesses be concerned about religious freedoms?" Grim was quoted as asking. "Because religious persecution is a predictor of a lower GDP." Over 43 percent of the countries in the world have restrictions on religious liberties, the website said.
In a study published in June, Grim and his coauthors said, "Religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies."
Earlier, Grim told Religion News Service why he decided to concentrate on the religious freedom/economic growth connection: "For the past decade I’ve been measuring the rising tide of restrictions on religious freedom around the world. I’m always asked where the success stories are and what can be done to roll back the tide. As a data person, I saw that the business and sports communities were missing from the religious freedom field. I know how much religious freedom helps economic progress and how much it suffers without."
But it's more than mere economics, Grim maintains, saying that religious freedom in a country can enhance peace. In October, the foundation offered this observation about religious freedom's societal benefits: "Countries with greater religious freedoms are generally more peaceful, whereas countries with less religious freedom are generally less peaceful. Additionally, the most influential factor affecting religious freedom is the government type. Full democracies are the most peaceful and have the greatest level of religious freedom, regardless of the type of religious belief or various religious characteristics."
Not all is positive on the religious freedom front, as many tragic events in 2014 bear witness. Writing in the Deseret News, Grim and Brigham Young University's Robert T. Smith called for a greater emphasis by the United States on protecting believer's freedoms around the world.
"By resetting our own resolve to positively encourage countries to protect international religious freedom ideals," they wrote, "a more nuanced national and foreign policy could advance our economies, improve our national security and promote a range of important social goods while reaffirming the intrinsic value of religious freedom itself."
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