Companies that ask their employees to leave their faith at the door, are being both unreasonable and naïve, says Professor Ian Harper.
Professor Harper, a leading Australian economist, told Open House that nobody can be expected to drop their religious values when they step into the workplace each day.
His comments were in reference to the recent social-media bullying of a Christian senior executive, Mark Allaby. Gay rights activists called for his Mr Allaby’s employer IBM to remove him—because of his links with a Christian organisation, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.
They were the same activists involved in pressuring Coopers Brewery over its alignment with the Bible Society, said The Australian.
The activists, Michael Barnett and Greens candidate Rod Swift, used social media to accuse IBM of not standing by its pro-gay-marriage values in employing Mr Allaby.
IBM supports Australian Marriage Equality and has lobbied Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to legalise same-sex marriage according to The Australian.
Professor Harper told Open House that while workplace diversity policies are important, they should not go so far as to make employees hide their faith.
“I would hope that diversity and inclusion policies would include the full range of views and opinions about these significant social issues,” he said.
“There is no doubt that as a community in Australia, we hold different views on a range of matters. The whole point of trying to cohere as a society is that we find ways in which we can live together, live and let live.
“I think the push for diversity and inclusion is a very positive thing. So in the name of that, if I happen to espouse a particular point of view because of my faith position, I would like to think that is a matter which was respected.”
Sydney‘s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher made a similar statement in an Open House interview, saying that some activists who wanted to defend the marginalised, were turning into bullies themselves.
“The bullying seems to all be coming from one side at the moment,” Mr Fisher said. “I would imagine that many people who favor redefining marriage are themselves very uncomfortable with the intolerance of diversity.”
We Carry our Values Wherever we Go
Professor Harper, who served on the board of the Reserve Bank, has been questioned himself over holding Christian faith in a position of public influence.
“As a Christian, I bring my Christian values to the workplace,” he said. “People quizzed me about this when I was setting minimum wages. People thought ‘why is a Christian doing this’?
“Somebody even said it was unconstitutional. But if there’s one thing that’s clear in the constitution about religion, it is that there shall be no religious tests for holding public office in the Commonwealth. So if I or my fellow Christians or Jews or Muslims or anybody were banned from serving in a public office, that would be unconstitutional.
“People used to raise this and I said ‘Yes, of course I bring my values, but the values I try to live by, are in a book that’s publically accessible. So you can hold me to account. But how can I do that for you? Where are your values written down? How can I hold you to account?’
“Many people faltered at that point and realised they couldn’t do that. Or it wasn’t as easy.
“If you thought these decisions could be made by a machine you would let the machine make the decision.”
“As to the notion that people should leave their faith at the door, with respect that’s naïve. I don’t think anybody does that, I don’t think it’s possible. And even if it were, it would then be incumbent upon everybody to leave their worldviews at the door.”
Prof Harper said humans cannot separate themselves from their values.
“I have no idea about the faith position of my colleagues on the Reserve Bank board or other groups, but I know for a fact that they bring their own personal values, their own outlook on the world, to the decisions the bank makes,” he said. “That’s why they’re appointed.
“If you thought these decisions could be made by a machine you would let the machine make the decision. [But] you’re asking people to do it. And so you bring people to this decision and they bring their best lights, and whatever value-system they care to bring.”