U club links religion, business

Religion’s role as an ethical standard in the business world has some opponents questioning its effectiveness.

Truth in Business, a Carlson School of Management student club, is hosting a series of talks on the issue in March and April.

Group leaders said their faith can be a moral compass and they work to “represent the dynamic leadership of Jesus Christ.”

DJ Grothe, Campus Freethought Alliance director, said he disagrees with the group’s vision.

“Jesus’ whole ethic is a token economy based on reward and punishment,” Grothe said.

The Campus Freethought Alliance is the largest network of atheist students and faculty in the United States, he said.

“But ethicists know that the most developed ethical systems are those that promote being good even when there is no reward,” he said.

Brian Jacobson, Truth in Business president, co-founded the group fall semester to make connections between students and Twin Cities Christian business leaders.

“We felt a disconnection between our career decisions and our faith,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the group is currently discussing the book “God is my CEO,” by Larry Julian.

Bob Osburn is the executive director of the MacLaurin Institute, a local Christian studies center that is co-sponsoring the series with Twin Cities Workplace Ministries.

“Christian scholarship belongs in the University,” Osburn said. “Right now, only secular ideas are allowed.

“We’re not talking about theocracy,” he said. “But the marketplace of ideas needs to be more open.”

Grothe said voluntary associations of all kinds have a right to form.

“The problem is when they become subversive and antagonistic to the values of our secular democracy,” he said.

Jean Kane, WelshCo president, will talk about religion and women in business March 8. WelshCo is one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the Twin Cities.

“My (Christian) faith and value system plays a big part in how I live my life and how I run the company,” Kane said.

Christopher Weiss, an adviser for the University’s Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists, said he does not think religion is a model for business.

“Most religions I’ve ever seen don’t really have an economics section,” he said.

There are vague rules for personal situations, Weiss said.

“But it doesn’t say ‘Insider trading is wrong,’ ” he said.

Marc Belton, General Mills senior vice president, will speak about God and the global marketplace March 29.

A person’s beliefs are “a lens to look at the world, which is grounded in reality,” he said. “It’s grounded in truth Ö ethics Ö and in love for your fellow man.”

But, Grothe said, religion in business becomes a problem when “many devout people believe theologically that they have to convert their neighbor.”

Kane said she does not think displaying her religious symbols is appropriate for a workplace.

“I don’t feel I need to advertise my faith to the world. It’s the way you live. It’s who you are,” Kane said.

Penny Edgell, a University sociology professor, said people should not be advocates for their faith in the workplace.

August Brunsman, executive director of the national Secular Student Alliance, said Christianity does not always translate into good values.

“Christianity has been used to defend practices that now seem morally abhorrent to most Americans, such as slavery and sexism,” Brunsman said.

But, Belton said, everyone believes in something.

“Everyone operates on a certain set of assumptions,” he said. “People might feel more comfortable knowing that you are defined by (beliefs) outside of just yourself.”