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Fast Forward Blog

Mixing business with religion

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Amy Gulli
Amy Gulli - (Photo / File)

“It's not personal; it's strictly business.” How many times have you heard or used that nugget of wisdom in your career?

Lately, however, business has been becoming more personal.

We don't want customers or clients or readers to simply use our products and move on. Instead, the buzzwords now are "audience engagement" and "brand loyalty." Your business needs, for want of a better word, a personality. And the new goal is to connect with your customers on an emotional level, not just a transactional level.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of strategies you can employ to better engage your customers.

But as business becomes more personal, clashes and conflicts are bound to arise. At least one of those conflicts is how you and your business handle religious views and subsequent behaviors associated with each religion.

As staff reporters John Hilton and Heather Stauffer found while reporting this week's front-page centerpiece, "Faith in your Business," some businesses — many in the services sector — choose to openly identify their faith and inform their customers that they do their jobs while adhering to their religious beliefs. Some businesses identify themselves internally as a faith-based business but are not overt about their views with customers. And still other business owners find no need to bring their religious views into the workplace.

Mixing business with religion also has come to the forefront because the U.S. Supreme Court just heard arguments last month about the Obamacare mandate that employers cover birth control as part of their health plans. Two cases were argued simultaneously. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Lancaster County-based Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. argued that, because of the business owners' religious beliefs, they should not have to cover birth control methods they consider abortifacients.

The Supreme Court's ruling on these two cases is likely to include a litmus test for companies to apply in the future. It will be interesting to see how the justices weigh the rights of employees against the rights of business owners — plus the whole issue of the First Amendment granting freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Does size and construction of a business mean it has more or fewer rights?

The week ahead

On a related note, Passover begins at sundown Tuesday, and this Friday is Good Friday. Are you giving your employees time off for either holiday? I'd love to know why or why not.

In the next issue of the Business Journal, three of our staff reporters will take a look at the compensation for CEOs at many of the largest publicly held companies in the midstate. Who do you think will come out on top?

And don't forget you can find networking opportunities here.

The rewind

In case you didn't get a chance to read it, here is the transcript of the arguments each side made to the Supreme Court justices. I was surprised how often the justices interrupted the attorneys to ask another question.

In addition, you can play the fun game of trying to figure out which side each justice will be on based upon their questions.

Note: Editor Hope Stephan will return to writing the Fast Forward blog next week.

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at amy@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @amygulli. Circle Amy Gulli on .

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