Balancing Inclusion: Navigating the Intersection of Religion and LGBTQIA+ Rights in the Workplace

28th May 2024 by Mark Holt
A photo of a priest with a clerical collar in the pride rainbow colors

One of our customers recently ran an EDI survey on the Divrsity platform, where one of the responses highlighted the complex interplay between religion and sexual orientation.

Some types of diversity are overemphasised to the detriment of others; for example, far too much emphasis is placed on sexual orientation and gender reassignment, and far too little on religion or belief. As an example of this, there is a culture of assuming that everyone should accept homosexuality as being correct, ignoring that many people's religious beliefs (including my own) (that) teach that homosexuality is wrong.

This employee clearly has a right to their personal beliefs and is asking for balance, but navigating this kind of issue without one's judgement being clouded by individual biases is incredibly difficult, so we thought it would be helpful to put together some thoughts on the subject.


In today's diverse workplaces, organizations strive to create inclusive environments where all employees feel valued and respected. However, creating a truly inclusive workplace can be challenging when the beliefs and values of certain religious groups is in conflict with those of the LGBTQIA+ community. While it is essential to respect everyone's rights, it is also critical to strike a balance that ensures no group feels marginalized or discriminated against.

Issues arise when these personal beliefs impact the workplace environment and the rights of others. For example, an employee may believe that homosexuality is a sin according to their religious teachings, and this could influence their interactions with LGBTQIA+ colleagues, potentially leading to microaggressions or even open discrimination.

It is important to note that these conflicts are not unidirectional. Knowing that individuals harbour strong religious beliefs may also cause LGBTQIA+ employees to be biased against those individuals, or even openly hostile towards them..

In this article, we will explore some strategies for balancing the needs and concerns of religious employees who may object to homosexuality with those of LGBTQIA+ employees seeking inclusion and support in the workplace. We will refer to relevant literature from academic sources, industry reports, and expert opinions. Let's dive in!

Understanding the Complexities of Religion and Sexual Orientation

Before discussing strategies for balancing inclusivity with religious obligations, it is essential to recognize that both religion and sexual orientation are complex and multifaceted issues. For example, within a single religious group, there may be varying perspectives on homosexuality, from outright rejection to acceptance or even celebration. Similarly, the LGBTQIA+ community is diverse and encompasses various identities and experiences, not just those related to sexual orientation (Ellis & Riggle, 2016).

It is therefore crucial to avoid oversimplifying these issues or making assumptions about individuals based on their religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Instead, leaders should aim to create a culture of openness and respect where all employees feel comfortable expressing their identities and discussing their concerns (Pichler, 2012).

Therefore, organizations have a responsibility not just to promote diversity but to actively create an environment that supports the well-being of their LGBTQIA+ employees. This includes addressing any conflicts that may arise due to religious beliefs that conflict with LGBTQIA+ rights.

While many religious individuals and organizations actively promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion, some beliefs and interpretations may lead to conflicts or disagreements. It is essential for employers and employees alike to understand the diversity of religious perspectives on homosexuality to foster a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Religions and Sects with Negative Views of Homosexuality

  • Catholic Church: The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to the natural law" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1992). However, the Church also emphasizes the importance of treating LGBTQIA+ individuals with respect and compassion.
  • Evangelical Christianity: Some Evangelical Christian denominations and churches believe that homosexuality is a sin, citing biblical passages such as Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27. This belief can lead to conflicts in the workplace, particularly if employees express their religious beliefs openly.
  • Orthodox Christianity: The Orthodox Church also views homosexual acts as sinful, referencing biblical teachings and traditional interpretations.
  • Sunni Islam: In Sunni Islamic tradition, homosexuality is considered a major sin, punishable by Allah (Qur'an 7:80-81). Some Sunni Muslims may believe that LGBTQIA+ individuals should be punished or "cured" of their sexual orientation.
  • Shia Islam: Shia Muslims also consider homosexuality a sinful act, but some interpretations emphasize the importance of compassion and tolerance towards LGBTQIA+ individuals.
  • Orthodox Judaism: Orthodox Jewish communities often view homosexual acts as forbidden by Jewish law (Halakha), citing biblical passages such as Leviticus 18:22.
  • Reform Judaism: Reform Judaism, on the other hand, is generally more accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals and has actively advocated for their rights.
  • Traditional Hinduism: In traditional Hindu belief, homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in scriptures. However, some Hindu texts and interpretations view same-sex relationships as unnatural or immoral.
  • Modern Hinduism: Many modern Hindu movements and organizations have actively promoted LGBTQIA+ inclusion and acceptance.

Sikhism does not explicitly condemn or endorse homosexuality. While some conservative members may hold negative views towards same-sex relationships, the religion's focus on equality and acceptance has led to many modern Sikh communities being more open to LGBTQIA+ individuals (Jaswal, 2019).

  • Theravada Buddhism: Theravada Buddhist teachings do not explicitly condemn homosexuality, focusing instead on the importance of mindfulness and compassion towards all beings.
  • Mahayana Buddhism: Mahayana Buddhist traditions also emphasize compassion and tolerance, with some actively promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Navigating the Balance

So, how can organizations ensure a respectful and inclusive environment for all employees while acknowledging these conflicting viewpoints? Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Adopt an Inclusive Definition of Diversity

Organizations can begin by adopting an inclusive definition of diversity that encompasses both religious beliefs and sexual orientation. This approach recognizes that all employees have multiple identities that intersect in complex ways, and that each individual's experience is unique (Coleman & Patterson, 2018).

Inclusive definitions of diversity can help organizations to develop policies and practices that are sensitive to the needs and concerns of all employees, rather than focusing on specific groups. For example, an inclusive definition might include language such as "valuing and respecting all individuals, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information" (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).

2. Provide Training and Education:
  • Offer training programs that explore the intersection of religion and LGBTQIA+ rights in the workplace. These sessions can help employees understand the impact of their words and actions on others, fostering greater empathy and respect.
  • Educate employees about the history and struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as the specific challenges faced by individuals at the intersection of religion and sexual orientation/gender identity.
3. Encourage Open Dialogue
  • Create safe spaces for employees to share their concerns, questions, or experiences related to this topic. This can be done through focus groups, anonymous hotlines, or employee resource groups specifically for religious individuals and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
  • By creating a channel for open dialogue, organizations can identify potential issues early on and work towards finding common ground.
4. Accommodate Religious Beliefs While Upholding Inclusion:
  • When possible, offer reasonable accommodations for employees with religious obligations that do not impact the rights of others. For example, allowing flexible working arrangements for religious observances or providing space for prayer/meditation.
  • However, it is important to set boundaries. Accommodations should not infringe on the rights of LGBTQIA+ employees or create an environment where discrimination is tolerated.
5. Foster a Culture of Respect:
  • Lead by example; senior leadership should actively demonstrate respect for both religious diversity and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Their commitment to creating a respectful workplace culture will trickle down through the organization.
  • Encourage employees to challenge discriminatory behavior or language, and provide them with the tools and confidence to do so safely.
6. Offer Support for LGBTQIA+ Employees:
  • Ensure that LGBTQIA+ employees have access to appropriate support systems, both within and external to the organization. This could include employee assistance programs, counseling services, or partnerships with LGBTQIA+-affirming religious organizations/communities.
7. Creating a Safe and Inclusive Workplace Culture

Creating a safe and inclusive workplace culture is essential for balancing the needs of religious employees with those of LGBTQIA+ employees. Leaders should establish clear policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on any aspect of an employee's identity (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2018).

Moreover, leaders should create opportunities for dialogue and education to help employees understand the experiences and perspectives of their colleagues from different backgrounds. For example, organizations might offer training programs on diversity and inclusion or sponsor events that celebrate different cultural traditions (Pichler, 2012).

8. Provide Accommodations for Religious Observances

Another way to balance the needs of religious employees with those of LGBTQIA+ employees is to provide accommodations for religious observances. This might include allowing employees to take time off for religious holidays, providing prayer rooms or designated spaces for religious practices, and offering flexible scheduling options to accommodate religious practices (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2018).

By providing accommodations for religious observances, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to respecting the beliefs and values of all employees, while also creating a culture of inclusivity that benefits everyone.


Understanding the religious perspectives on homosexuality is crucial for creating an inclusive workplace environment. By recognizing the potential impact of these beliefs, organizations can take proactive steps to foster a culture of respect and acceptance. It is important to balance the rights and freedoms of religious individuals with the rights of LGBTQIA+ employees to feel safe, supported, and valued in their workplaces. Through education, open dialogue, and a commitment to inclusivity, organizations can navigate these complexities while promoting equality and harmony among all employees.


Please note that this article is for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or a comprehensive list of relevant legislation and resources.

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