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. Allegra

    Is that the same Tyson company that locked in illegal immigrant workers in their chicken processing plants, causing some of them to burn to death during a fire a few years ago? That doesn't seem very Christian . . .

    February 8, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  2. ND

    Witch hunt by CNN against religious businesses.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  3. Ron

    Interesting article. Is it supposed to be a hit list of some sort? To be fair, why don't you list companies run by atheists or pro-gay? At least that way the majority of Americans who have faith in God will know where not to shop.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  4. Sammy


    February 8, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  5. CT

    Tyson????? Shows how hypocrates hide behind supposed "Christianity"! They hire illegal workers and when immigration sniffs around they will pick a few sacrifices to offer up. I had a relative who worked there for a while after he got laid off. This company is a prime example of companies who exploit illegals for cheap labor and defy our immigration laws. And they have the nerve to call themselves Christian? I don't think Jesus would approve!

    February 8, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  6. ryan

    proves that a religious affiliation doesnt make an iota of difference in terms of allegiance to the almighty dollar. By flashing their bibles but doing things to harm their communities and the planet, they make it clear the religion is bogus, theres nothing there but hollow self righeousness and delusion. Its just like those roadrage drivers with jesus fish on their bumpers. Their "witness" proves them to be false. I've heard it said "say it with your life don't say a word".

    February 8, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  7. memyselfandi

    How about Domino's Pizza and Coors beer? Aren't they also big with the christian stuff too?

    February 8, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  8. K

    What would Jesus want in his Happy Meal?

    February 8, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Thugliest

      a back rub with a happy ending...

      February 8, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  9. gt

    i am surprised there are so many pagans in america....

    February 8, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  10. JimmyD

    There aren't any Chick-Fil-As in this part of the country. Suddenly, that seems like a very, very good thing.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  11. Sammy

    Wasn't Tyson the one caught on tape torturing chickens for kicks? Is there some passage in the bible that allows that too?

    February 8, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  12. Hawkeye1012

    Mmmmm.... Devil Dogs.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  13. Dave

    Was the intention of this article to have been an attack on Christian owned businesses? It would appear by many of the responses, it was taken that way by a lot of people

    February 8, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Cathy

      That's because some Christians (those on the more obsessive end) are so easily threatened by anything that is unbiased. Basically they seem to believe that if it's not biased TOWARD them then it's biased AGAINST them. Then they can't figure out why people are so turned off by them.....

      February 8, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • berg

      Of course it was! CNN, you and your viewers disgust me. Good luck in the afterlife!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Dave

      Funny how much of the liberal media will attack Christians and Christian owned business and Republican Christians but are ok with Obama's latest supposed embrace of Christianity

      February 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  14. Ally

    Forever 21. Check out John 3:16 at the bottom of every bag.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  15. moderateJoe

    Thanks for this enlightened information. I was well aware of Chic Fil A and I'm a big fan since living the in the South 20 years ago. I go to the one in Peabody Mass whenever I'm in the area. I'l begin to shop at the other retailers.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  16. Rudy

    I think CNN is continuing to allow low life journalists, contribute to their cause – no different than the other SPAM magazines like National Enquire. This writer has obvious self esteem issues since he feels compelled to initiate negative results from an topic like religion – which is a contraversial topic at the best of times. I thought America was a country that upheld individual freedoms to carry on as one wanted to without oppression. If ALL these "bad religious" individuals are so horrible, allow "other" people to choose to frequent these establishments or not. WHO ARE YOU to be allowed to be so JUDGEMENTAL – who voted you to be so bias. You are no better than those you accuse of being bad. CNN's standard of journalism is unfortunately SO LOW – poor ratings usually cause desperate measures & CNN is a fine example of this.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Steven Crow

      Now who is attacking who????

      February 8, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Stephen

      When I read this article, I did not see any biased or attacking language against these companies. What I saw was someone talking about the religious/faith beliefs behind the people who started these companies. There is no call for a boycott or anything remotely similar. Just as many people will start shopping or employing these companies as stop based on this information.

      I'm a Christian, and I'm tired of so many Christians being so sensitive. I don't think any of these companies were trying to keep this information secret, so what is wrong with someone writing about it. I bet Tyson and ServiceMaster are overjoyed to have this information out there on CNN.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  17. Thugliest

    Religious freedom also means freedom from religion....just sayin....these companies also recognize that....

    February 8, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  18. little jim

    I had rather die knowing there is a GOD than dieing not believing there is no GOD. Where will your soul go when you die?

    February 8, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Steve F

      You need to understand that your soul is a figment of your imagination.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Thugliest

      you will reincarnate as a chicken and be sent to Tyson-schwitz!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • ryan

      same place as all those chickens that Tyson tortures for Chick Fil A.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • litenup

      "than dieing not believing there is no GOD"

      Double negative!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Religious sects

      Believing yourself into "knowing" does not make God real.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Jonathan

      Your soul, my soul, his soul, it's a metaphor esentially, an idea. It's that part of our body that just makes us click, that contains our inner self. Does the inner self actually exist physically? Eh, probably not. It's just that idea, that image that we cannot explain yet we feel is there. Basically just a word to explain something that we do not understand AT ALL. Kind of how ancients had no idea what lightning is, what made a storm blow in on the wind, why giant waves come along every now and then and wreck destruction? Now that we know why these things occur, why is that we still held on to the ancient's explanation of these phenomenom? Religion erks me. Mostly because I dont understand it as much as anyone else TRUELY does, yet some are such die hard devotees who just throw their "faith" into it. Eh, I guess it makes people feel all warm and cuddly inside knowing they are placing their "faith" in something, proven or not. Just because human's have continued something for thousands of years, does not make it truth....

      February 8, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Cathy

      I would say that you do not KNOW there is a one and only Christian God any more than Steve KNOWS we have no soul. You are both equally annoying and narrow minded. The fact is none of us knows anything for sure, it's all about what you choose to believe and have faith in, regardless of a lack of "proof". I'm not a Christian OR an Atheist, but that fact that you each think your way is the only way is the heart of the REAL problem in this world.

      Anyway, bottom line is you're both gonna have to just wait and find out along with the rest of us lowly mortals.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Nick

      @Steve F
      Let's see here.. if you're right, then when Little Jim dies, he just dies, and he loses nothing. However, if Little Jim is right, where's that leave you? I'm not sayin'.. I'm just sayin'...

      February 8, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • CN

      wrong, Cathy. While it's true that no one knows, the burden of proof is on the theists, not on the atheist. The only reason you can take the stance that you do is that you live in a country where we are fortunate to have separation of church and state.

      For instance, there are theists out there who believe people of your gender should wear a Darth Vader like apparatus, as this is pleasing to God. Since God never directly appears and commands women to dress thus, it's done conveniently by human representatives (who also conveniently are always men) who claim to act in his name. You'll agree with me that this is a huge arrogation of power. So the reason why the burden of proof rests on the theists is because, if they're right, that means power by them over you and others of your gender.

      Thus the argument that "no one knows, stop fighting" is only made by those who are ignorant of the fact that the whole debate stems from the fact that religions want people WHO DON'T BELIEVE in their religion to abide by their laws. Which many of us do not want to do.

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

      What's that, Nick? Just another cheap attempt to pass off Pascale's wager, which is religious hucksterism at its worst, not to mention insulting to a God, if there is one, giving it the very human projection that it would rather you simper and feign belief than do your best to live an intellectually honest and fulfilling life.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  19. Ex Tyson Employee

    I am Jewish and worked at the Tyson corporate office and used to have prayer circles done for me and bibles left on my desk. They were all worried that I was going to hell and several of them told me about it often. I was referred to as "The Jew" and they didn't see a problem with it. Having faith in an organization is fine as long as they embrace diversity also.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Thugliest

      that would have made me nuts....i would have had a lot to say about it....

      February 8, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • ryan

      further proof religion is ineffective at morality, and holds absolutely zero moral authority. Religion is bogus, a sham, manipulative garbage.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  20. Ray from Bisbee, AZ

    These companies are completely free to have a religious orientation, and I am just as free to not give them my hard-earned cash. Thanks for the information, CNN - I'll shop elsewhere.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Sammy

      Ditto. thanks for the info.. tells me where NOT to shop.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      I am proud to say I do not purchase from or associate with any of these corporations. I have been in to Walmart once in 10 yrs and that was this year to buy a sled for my kid. I also have boycotted Target stores for their religious and political donations. This is an example of where capitalism is being corrupted by private ownership. These companies and their donations to certain extremist politicians and lobby's is part of the problem creating devisiveness in America. If you are a corporation your goal should be to make money and employee all equally and sell to everyone equally NOT push a religious agenda using your market position. Another good reason to start taxing churches!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Linda

      Thanks for the info it tells me where to bring my business!!!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Elana

      why not? I mean, there are LOTS of reason to not shop at certain companies, for instance, I do not shop at walmart, I don't like giving them my business because I used to work there, and I don't like them as a company. I'm not so sure about the quality of Tyson chicken. I won't give business to Dole (banana's) because they fund militant group that assassinate farmers who won't sell their land, not to mention he is responsible for us taking over Hawaii If any of these so-called christian companies listed do something where they discriminate against gays, then I will not give them my business. If I find out about companies being unfair to their employees, I try not to give them my business. I don't really see how them citing a christian reference in their mission statement makes them unworthy of business.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • ND

      Can we also have a list of Atheist run business so I know where not to spend my hard earned money!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Linda

      Freedom of speech also means we can express our opinions, I'm not saying push anything on anybody, I'm not saying everyone has to agree with me, it's not about who's "right" it's about the fact that these days the only "religion" that seems to get slammed in the media is christianity and I think that's wrong. I applaud Chick-fil-A for standing up for what it believes in, it's their right, it's their $$$ to do with as they choose. How ridiculous to say that they should contribute just as much to gay causes (again not addressing the issue of "right" or "wrong" belief) I ask anyone "how many gay rights activitist would donate their own $$$ to conservative rights causes? ZERO My opinion is not only right when it agrees with yours, my opinion is my opinion and I have that right and so do you, let's work to keep it that way instead of always attacking each other for differences. We have the right to choose our beliefs and our opinions at this point, let's keep it that way, we fight for woman to have their right to choose, let's allow all to maintain their right to choose their beliefs and vocalize them through freedom of speech if they choose!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Linda

      You are completely in the right to not give them your hard earned cash and they are completely in the right to donate their hard earned cash wherever they choose. I applaud them for taking a stand, Chick-fil-A has chosen for years to not open on Sundays because of their beliefs and they have a thriving booming fast food chain business.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Jeannie

      I will definitely shop at all of these businesses.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • matt poling

      CNN, enjoyed the article. Is there a way to turn off Sound Off?

      February 8, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Elana

      I wouldn't go out of my to shop at these companies because they are "christian". That doesn't mean they are good companies. Judge each company on how they treat their employees and for the quality of their products and customer service. Who cares what their religious roots are?! There are good secular companies and bad Christian ones, and visa versa... It's ignorant for you guys to shop or not shop at these companies based on this article.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:12 am |
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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.