Top 10 Reasons Why Religious Discrimination is Bad Business

With Indiana’s recent legislation there’s been a lot of discussion about these “religious protection” acts, both state and federal. Regardless of where you stand on Indiana’s particular law, you may want to think twice before you rush to defend your religious beliefs in the business world. Why? Because it’s bad business, and here’s 10 reasons why, just in time for Top 10 Tuesday.

10. The threat of lawsuits
OK, this is probably the most obvious issue. When you discriminate, you are at risk for a lawsuit. The thing about the US legal system is that you can be sued by anyone for anything. And sure, maybe you were right, but do you really want to spend your time and money in court? Because even if the case gets dismissed, you’ll have to spend a lot more time than you anticipate in a courtroom.
9. The threat of bad publicity
We all, by now, know the sad story of the pizza business in Indiana that suffered so much bad publicity, from a hypothetical situation, no less, that they are going out of business. As businesses, we can’t live in fear, but we can take reasonable action to minimize the risk of bad PR.
8. Are you sure your beliefs teach what you think they do?
A few years ago there was a big stink about pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control. They argued that their religion prevented the use of birth control. Yet the Catholic church does not condemn the use of hormonal contraception for treatment of medical issues such as endometriosis. And of course, unless the pharmacist in question has access to the patient’s medical records, s/he does not know if the hormonal prescription is intended for contraception or medical treatment. Talk to your clergy about your concerns and make sure you are fully informed.
7. Are you sure of your customer’s intention?
The pharmacy example illustrates this point as well. Pharmacists who were opposed to women having access to contraception demonstrated an ignorance of the other purposes of hormonal birth control. In fact, I used hormonal birth control for at least 10 years while I was a virgin. As in, not sexually active, not needing to prevent contraception, a virgin. If a pharmacist had refused to dispense birth control to me s/he would have absolutely been misinterpreting my intention. If you can’t be sure of the intention, then your discrimination is not only a mistake, it’s unwarranted.
6. Misunderstanding how religion, ethics, and business interact
Religion is meant to bring people together. Business is about delivering a product or service. We bring ethics to business in order to deliver the product or service in a way that is best for everyone involved. When we try to bring religion into business, things get messy, in no small part because of money. In Christianity, the primary goal is to love others. In business, the primary goal is to return money to the stockholders. Money and love can often be mutually exclusive. Yes, you want to act ethically. But that does not require you to bring your faith into the office.
5. Misunderstanding your target market
This is really simple. If you don’t want to work with the people who are coming into your business, then you are targeting the wrong people with your marketing. For example, if only men went into Victoria’s Secret, then Victoria’s Secret has failed their marketing.
4. Discrimination is not discernment
Yes, you can be selective in your clientele. But that selection needs to be based on how your product can improve their lives. No one’s life is improved by judgment. If I believe a potential client is not a good fit, then of course I’m free not to work with her. But that belief should be based on whether the product I’m delivering is a solution to her needs, not whether I approve of how she lives. No man needs a bra from Victoria’s Secret, because men don’t have boobs, generally speaking. But if a transgender woman needs a bra for boobs, then Victoria’s Secret is a good fit and there’s no reason not to sell her the bra.
3. Stunted emotional and intellectual growth
Isolation leads to insularity, which can be deadly in this globally based world. Many people who condemn certain things, like homosexuality, smoking, daycare, divorce, or Islam, don’t actually know anyone who currently engages in those activities. Or they only know people who used to participate. I would challenge any business owner to build a friendship with a person you judge before making discrimination against that group company policy. Not only will you learn, you may even find ways to serve that group.
2. Distraction from your primary mission
As I mentioned before, businesses exist to serve products and services to others. Anything that prevents the serving of products and services, or anything that takes time away from serving products and services, is a distraction and a waste of resources.
1. Corrosive to yourself: As we judge others, we judge ourselves. As much as we fail to give grace to others, we fail ourselves, and ultimately, we will die from lack of grace.

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