9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)
July 24th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

As the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s founder publicly opposing same-sex marriage continues - Mike Huckabee is pushing for a Chick-fil-A day, while the Jim Henson Co. is cutting ties to the chain - we’re republishing our list of 10 other religious companies.

Our initial list was provoked by an earlier Chick-fil-A/same-sex marriage controversy. Is our list missing any names? Tweet us at @CNNBelief to let us know.

Here are 10 well-known companies that don't make religious products - we're not talking kosher foods manufacturer Manischewitz here - but that nonetheless take their religious sides seriously (listed in no particular order).

1. Forever 21. The young women’s clothing company may be best known for its skimpier and saucier offerings, but it also exudes subtle piety. The words John 3:16 – a citation of a biblical verse popular among evangelical Christians - appears at the bottom of its stores' shopping bags. A spokeswoman for the company told The New York Sun that the message is a "demonstration of the owners' faith."

2. Tom’s of Maine. After launching the natural home products company in 1970 with his wife Kate, CEO Tom Chappell nearly left it to pursue full-time Christian ministry. While receiving a master's at Harvard Divinity School, however, a professor advised him to just treat his business as ministry. “He began bringing in different spiritual leaders to talk to the board about how they could use spiritual principles to run the company,” says the Tyson Center's Neal. Beyond environmentalism, the company seeks to "create a better world by exchanging our faith, experience, and hope."

3. Tyson Foods, Inc. The world's largest chicken company employs a team of chaplains who minister to employees at production facilities and corporate offices. Other corporations contract out such services, but it’s rare for a company to keep chaplains on the payroll.

"The chaplains provide compassionate pastoral care and ministry to team members and their families," according to Tyson's website, "regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation or beliefs."

Tyson recently gave money to launch the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, one of the first academic centers of its kind.

4. Hobby Lobby. The privately held chain of more than 450 arts and crafts stories isn't shy about its Christian orientation. "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles," reads the company's mission statement. "We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured."

The company supports a slate of Christian interests, from Oral Roberts University to the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, and is known for taking out overtly religious newspaper ads around the holidays.

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5. ServiceMaster. Never heard of this corporation? Perhaps some of the residential services companies it owns, like Terminix and American Home Shield, will ring a bell.

The company was founded in 1929 by Marion E. Wade, who "had a strong personal faith and a desire to honor God in all he did," according to ServiceMaster's website. "Translating this into the marketplace, he viewed each individual employee and customer as being made in God's image - worthy of dignity and respect."

The company, formerly public but recently taken over by a private equity firm, still consciously tries to "do the right thing in the way that employees treat customers," says Theodore Malloch, who leads Yale University's Spiritual Capital Initiative. "It's a theological statement about servant leadership - think of the picture of Christ washing the feet of his disciples."

6. Herman Miller. The Michigan-based furniture manufacturer's founders were steeped in the Reformed Protestant tradition. "It retains a lot of that in practices that revolve around a notion of respecting the dignity of the human person and a strong environmental ethic that grew out of the religious responsibility," says Yale's Malloch. Indeed, Herman Miller - perhaps most famous for its Aeron chair - prides itself on environmental philanthropy and on regularly appearing on Fortune's annual list of best companies to work for.

7. Interstate Batteries. The car battery giant has a "self-avowed religious identity and is very open in their God talk" in internal training and communication, says Lake Lambert III, author of Spirituality, Inc. Former company president Norm Miller moved to the role of chairman to allow more time to address Christian audiences. Miller talks to those "interested in how he found the truth of Christianity," the company's website says, "and how he learned to effectively apply biblical principles to create a more successful business." Interstate employs its own chaplain.

8. In-N-Out Burger. Chick-fil-A is hardly the only fast-food outfit to make its founders' religious leanings part of its recipe. Western U.S. burger chain In-N-Out has printed citations of Bible passages on cups, wrappers and other pieces of packaging since at least the late 1980s. For instance, "John 3:16" appears on the bottom of soft drink cups, a reference to the Bible passage, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Read more on In-N-Out's religious side at Eatocracy, CNN's food blog.

9. Walmart. Treat this one as an honorable mention. Lambert says the Walton family, which founded the company and still own a major stake in it, has used Christian servant leadership models in building the world's largest retailer. And the company's Arkansas roots helped sensitize it to the shopping habits of churchgoers. It helps explain why Walmart long carries the kind of Christian books that were once the exclusive province of Christian bookstores. "You don’t find those kinds of things in J.C. Penney," Lambert says. But Walmart has been so successful with such material that it's now become a business threat to Christian booksellers.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey is a Buddhist. Whole Foods Global Public Relations Director Kate Lowery says that Mackey has never been a Buddhist. “John does not fit into any traditional religious category,” she said in an e-mail message.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Missionaries

soundoff (2,481 Responses)
  1. D

    Who cares? what's so scary about it? If I had my own company I would run it the way I want to

    February 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Wrong, you would run it the way your active and potential customers want you to run it... if you didn't, you would not have customers or a business...

      August 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • JJoseph1979

      I agree with you, D. All this stuff about Chick-fil-A will eventually blow over and probably help them more than hurt them. So many people out there who never heard of this business, have now become regular customers. This will just offset the others who no longer patronize them. In the end, it will balance out. This isn't a mom and pop store, it's a major franchise. The business they *might* lose in San Francisco will be picked up in some more conservative area.

      I for one disagree with the owner's position, but I like their chicken so I'll continue to eat there. I don't care about the politics of a particular business, what I care about is customer service, product quality, and price. For me, life is too short to try and keep track of the politics, religious, or other opinions of every single business I choose to patronize.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Frances

      The money you spend at Chik-Fil-A goes directly to harm the gay couple next door. If that is your wish then so be it. With friends like you, who needs enemies.

      August 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  2. David

    Scarier yet are which companies are run using L Ron Hubbard's books on business. I know Diskeeper is one.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  3. D

    I agree with jack. Owned by religious people or not doesn't affect how good burgers taste or how cheap I get a nintendo. I DONT CARE I will still spend money at some of those places...heck I might even go try Chick-fil-a just because they started a franchise on their own and whatever they pray to on their own time they aren't apologizing for or hiding. Good for them-and I'm not even religious!

    February 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  4. JOSH

    thank you for posting this story. it actually makes me want to support these companies even more because they believe in the same christian faith. it's amazing how ignorant so many of these comments are. the reality is jesus walked this earth, died for our sins and rose again. he exemplifies love, not hate. someday he'll come again and those who believe him will be saved. simple as that.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • vel

      Really, Josh, the same faith? Are you sure? I have never seen more vitriol than between Christian sects. I can just imagine the horror that most US protestant/evangelical Chrisitans would have if they found that some big company was following Catholic standards and gasp, the Pope!

      February 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Blackened

      Yeah... no ignorance in THAT statement.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • derp

      "it actually makes me want to support these companies even more because they believe in the same christian faith"

      I am so glad that you support me in my quest for a biblical marriage.

      I was planning to marry my sister, them marry my other sister too, have relations with both of them, sell them, and then stone them to death.

      It's nice to see that someone is willing to stand up for marriage as set forth in the bible.

      Thanks Josh!

      July 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Right, JOSH, and Dah South gonna riz agn 2...

      August 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • TDW

      Josh...."He exemplifies love, not hate" That's the problem Josh. In Chick-Fil-A's case they are funneling millions of dollars to hate groups who are working to get the government of this country to deny civil rights to citizens. I don't call that love. Do you?

      August 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  5. ginger

    Walmart is no threat to Christian booksellers, Kindle and Nook are threats to all booksellers. RG...a company can operate under Christian principles and not provide healthcare, etc. Look at the "Book." What kinds of benefits did the apostles get? We don't need to worry about tomorrow, worry about today is sufficient. If God clothes the lillies of the field, he will take care of you and I.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      Oh wait, you're right, I almost forgot how happy Jesus was with the profiteering money changes in the temple that took advantage of the poorer members of the populace? How could I be so silly and theologically off? Remember how he told them what a great job they were doing exploiting people?
      Oh, wait, hold on! Just sourced myself. It turns out he roughed these guys up and chased them out of the temple WITH A WHIP!!

      February 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Proper Villain,
      If Walmart had an store in a church or a temple, you would have an excellent point.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  6. ProperVillain

    WalMart and Christian ethics are a contradiction. They are greedy profiteers with connections that help them shut down entire communities of local businesses, bring down wages, and make life overall worst for everyone save their owners. I outright have refused to even go near a WalMart for the past several years. WalMart is good for the Walton band of miscreets and nobody else.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • TriumPatriot

      But... They've accepted Jesus!

      February 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      If they "accepted" Jesus they would do right by their fellow man. Faith without works is dead and useless. To use another cliché, actions speak louder than worlds.
      They are Christian in name as a marketing tool to get the evangelical dollar.

      February 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Here, in THE GREATEST NATION ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH – heh, heh, heh – you have millions of people simply AUDITING CHRISTIANITY... for many different reasons... mostly GREED!

      August 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  7. Loud Noises

    I do not purchase anything from any of the companies you listed. Not because of the religious thing. Just because I have no need for any of it.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  8. Carl

    That explains the annoying religious musical CD fixture near the picture frame aisle at Walmart.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  9. Morgan

    God rules!

    February 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • JOSH

      yes, HE does! 🙂

      February 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      Really? He always seemed like kind of a jerk to me. At least the way you guys write about him.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  10. Auntie Warhol

    Every time I've ever patronized a business that advertised its Christianity, I've been ripped off. Every time. I've got nothing against people with silly beliefs, but I do have something against liars and cheaters and thieves. No more shall I patronize Christian business establishments.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • vel

      Agreed. If they must tell people they are Christian, screaming their faith, in effect, from the street corners, you can be pretty sure that they will be the worst people you've ever deal with.

      February 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  11. RG

    Only in America can a company like Walmart claim to be christian, while sending jobs overseas, not providing healthcare, and not paying employees a living wage. Burn in Hell.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • itsnottheendoftheworld

      ok, your dumb, I may not like the place I work at, but they DO providing healthcare. I know cuz I'm under it.
      And they don't send jobs over seas, they buy goods form over seas. the money thing, your right.

      if your going hate on walmart get your facts right!

      save money live better. 🙂

      February 8, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • itsnottheendoftheworld

      from over seas*

      February 8, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Nicole

      @iamblahblahblah – Do you SEE the irony of your statement "Your dumb"? Your dumb what? The phrase is "You're dumb" and yes, you are.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • derp

      "And they don't send jobs over seas, they buy goods form over seas"

      Wow, just wow.

      I don't believe it is humanly possible to actually say something dumber than this.

      July 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  12. sameeker

    Walmaart a religious company? Give me a break. If they were, they would not exploit their workers and strangle the local business around their stores. There is nothing biblical about this company or their actions.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • rose

      What? The bible condones slavery, child abuse, subjugation of women, etc...
      Pure christianity! Typical christians!

      February 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • sameeker

      Sorry Rose. I didn't mean to insult your corporate god walmart. Are you going there to worship today?

      February 8, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • itsnottheendoftheworld

      as some one who works for walmart, I have to say, they don't follow the bible at allllllllllllllllllllllllll (yes that's 24 "L" I used, I'm so super cereal)

      February 8, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Rich

      Having worked for companies that are "secular" and companies that are owned by very "Christian" people, I would have to say I have no doubt that Christians treat their workers far worse. There must be something about sitting in a Church on Sunday mornings that allows you to justify treating the people who do the work for your business like dog crap.

      February 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  13. TriumPatriot

    I'll still buy from these places just as long as they don't aid bigoted or anti-science causes.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • derp

      Except that they do.

      July 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  14. jack

    I wouldn't care if In-N-Out was owned by Mel Gibson... damnit those burgers are good.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Gordon

      They aren't that good and I really don't care for their fries either. This is just another reason to avoid them altogether. Five Guys is definitely better!

      July 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  15. Ethan

    I worked for Altiris, a Mormon company based in Lindon, Utah some years ago. They gave obvious preferential treatment to the local LDS (Mormon) members, so much so that they would hire unqualified members of their wards and families so often it became an issue among non-Utah employees.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Thomas

      I worked there too and most non-Mormons knew that if a decision had to be made it almost always favored the Mormon candidate. Subtle, but very present. It's ingrained in their culture; they don't see it as a problem. Some very nice people over there, but if you're not in the "club" it's just not a good place to be.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  16. k

    it seems evil follows Christianity, interesting

    February 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • jon

      very well said. Evil sought to currupt Christ Himself. Fortunately for us, Christ won.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  17. HotAirAce

    I don't go out of my way to find out about religious companies, but if they come tto my attention I avoid them if possible. If I stumbled across one, I would not likely return and/ or I would make it clear that their religious views were not welcome and are going to cost them business.

    February 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  18. john

    Didn't know about these but now that I do they're history for me. Thank you

    February 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • David

      What does this mean? A person's system of belief so annoys you that it actually dictates they way you live? That is not only petty, it shows your immaturity.
      I can undertand avoiding a store run by a fowl-mouthed proprietor or someone who never bathes, even someone who will never stop preaching at customers all day long. But to be so disdainful of a corporation because they bring biblical honesty and integrity into the way they do business, well, please, tell me who you work for so I can avoid them!

      February 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm not sure about John, but for me, it's not about a person's belief system, it's about the company's promotion of a belief system I may not agree with and whether I want to contribute to that or not. Also, it's not about bring biblical honesty and integrity into the way they do business, but the biblical business they do after they have my money. (Also, is biblical honesty and integrity different that honesty and integrity?) Would you be as accepting if the company took it's profit and built a Catholic Church, Jewish Temple, Mosque, or Mormon Temple?
      They are free to do what they want with the profits, but I may not want to contribute to that goal.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • derp

      "But to be so disdainful of a corporation because they bring biblical honesty and integrity into the way they do business"

      Biblical integrity.

      That's hilarious.

      July 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • TDW

      It's not Biblical honesty and integrity that is the problem. It's the fact that they happily take MY money and turn it over to hate groups who want to deny citizens of this country their civil rights. I'm not talking about religious rights but CIVIL rights. That's where I draw the line. If you are so religious and such a good Christian (Derp and other commentors) why would you do business with a company who then turns around and gives a part of that money to a hate group that has openly stated they would prefer the government take certain citizens of this country out and SHOOT them. Tell me. Is that any better than what Hitler and the Nazis did in Germany. Just because you don't like a certain group of people you just go out and kill them? Not with MY money you don't. That's what Chick-Fil-A has been doing with your money, dude. Open your eyes. They are claiming to be Christian, but is that something a true Christian would do? I think not.

      August 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  19. Flex

    While I wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near, in, or consuming, 6 out of 7 of these corporations, Herman Miller produces strong designs. I hope they're not bigots.

    February 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • currbomb

      So wait, you wouldn't be caught dead doing business with christian companies, but somehow they are the bigots?

      February 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Griffin

      currbomb, if you refused to do business with a company with open Nazi beliefs and ties, would that make you a bigot?

      February 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • TDW

      @ Griffin. Wouldn't you say that a company that claims to be Christian, takes your money and then turns around and gives it to an organization who has openly stated they would prefer the government would take certain citizens of this country out and SHOOT them is Christian? That sounds to me like they are the ones who are acting like Nazis. And yes, that is exactly what this company has done. It has been checked and verified by sources who do fact checks. Millions of dollars this company has turned over to organizations that espouse hate. That's not the kind of "Christian" company I feel like doing business with. Print a Biblical quote like John 3:16 on a sack or package...big deal. To give money, millions of dollars, to hate groups. That's a big deal.

      August 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  20. Reality

    You forgot to list the Mormon businesses so to make up for that oversight:

    From: lds-mormon.com/time.shtml (Time Magazine)

    "The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the t-ithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. Ti-thes are collected locally, with much of the money pas-sed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. "By Monday," says Elbert Peck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City "know every cent that's been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks." There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in t-ithes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons."

    "The Mormons are stewards of a different str-ipe. Their charitable spending and temple building are prodi-gious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that TIME estimates to be at least $6 billion strong. Even more unusual, most of this money is not in bonds or stock in other peoples' companies but is invested directly in church-owned, for-profit concerns, the largest of which are in agribusiness, media, insurance, travel and real estate. Deseret Management Corp., the company through which the church holds almost all its commercial as-sets, is one of the largest owners of farm and ranchland in the country, including 49 for-profit parcels in addition to the Deseret Ranch. Besides the Bonneville International chain and Beneficial Life, the church owns a 52% holding in ZCMI, Utah's largest department-store chain.
    All told, TIME estimates that the Latter-day Saints farmland and financial investments total some $11 billion, and that the church's nont-ithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million. "

    Some of Mormonism past leaders and the businesses they managed:


    "The Quorum of Twelve's president Ezra Taft Benson was a director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co. Apostle Howard W. Hunter was president of the Polynesian Cultural Center (Hawaii), and director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co., of Continental Western Life Insurance Co., of Deseret Federal Savings and Loan, of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corp., of Heber J. Grant & Co., of PHA Life Insurance Co. (Oregon), of Watson Land Co. (Los Angeles), and of Western American Life Insurance Co. Apostle Thomas S. Monson was president and chairman of the board of Deseret News Publishing Co., vice-president of LDS Social Services and of Newspaper Agency Corp, and director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co., of Commercial Security Bank, of Commercial Security Bankcorporation, of Continental Western Life Insurance Co. (Iowa), of Deseret Management Corp., of IHC Hospitals, Inc., of Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co., of Murdock Travel, of PHA Life Insurance Co. (Oregon), of Pioneer Memorial Theater, and of Western American Life Insurance Co. Apostle Boyd K. Packer was chairman of the board of Utah Home Fire Insurance Co., while also director of Murdock Travel and of Zion's First National Bank. Apostle Marvin J. Ashton was president of Deseret Book Co., chairman of the board of ZCMI, and director of Beneficial Development Co., of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corporation, of Laie Resorts (Hawaii), and of Zion's Securities Corporation. Apostle L. Tom Perry was director of American Stores Co. (which operated Skaggs Drugs and Alpha Beta supermarkets), of ZCMI, of Zion's First National Bank, and of Jewel Companies, Inc. (Chicago), and trustee of LDS Social Services and of Nauvoo Restoration. Apostle David B. Haight was director of Bonneville International Corporation, of Deseret Management Corporation, of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corporation, and of Valtek, Inc., while also a trustee of Deseret Management Corporation Foundation. Apostle James E. Faust was vice-president of Deseret News Publishing Co., director of Commercial Security Bank, and of Commercial Security Bank Corporation, while also a trustee of Ballet West and of LDS Social Services. Apostle Neal A. Maxwell was director of Mountain Fuel Resources, Inc., of Mountain Fuel Supply Co., and of Deseret News Publishing Co. Apostle Russell M. Nelson was director of Zion's First National Bank. Apostle Dallin H. Oaks was chairman of the Public Broadcasting System (national), while also director of O.C. Tanner Jewelry Co. and of Union Pacific Railroad."

    February 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Kad2

      To the church of latter day saints: Thanks so much for the info-mercial! What, you grew tired of knocking on our doors, disturbing our dinner/family time??

      February 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Reality

      Again since the topic is about religion and businesses, one must list Mormonism as a business. It fronts as a religion that uses forced donations and "volunteers" to advertise said businesses.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Ntrain2k

      Leave it to a liberal to bring the Mormon church into this in an attempt to make it a political slam against Romney.

      *roll eyes*

      July 27, 2012 at 9:43 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.