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. Bryan

    The world's largest chicken company is christian, huh? So its real christian to cut off a chickens beak and keep it in a wire box until its fat enough to kill, then put it in another wire box, strap to a semi, then haul it exposed down the road, irregardless of the weather? And "christians" wonder why their scorned and ridiculed. Its because they're all hypocrits!

    February 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  2. GoHomePalin

    Ummm, let's see. . . Sonic, Chick-fil-A, In-and-Out Burger, Tyson, Walmart. . . . Fattening fast food and cheap, low-rent retail. Just confirms my belief that most Christians are over-weight rednecks.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  3. PolishSausage

    I was raised in a religious family... but now that Im all grown up... I say F religion... religion is the root of all evil... I don't need no advice on how to run my life from some fake gods...

    February 8, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  4. Peter Dybing

    At issue is not if an organization is faith based, but do they base discriminatory decisions on their faith. Will they hire and promote individuals of other faiths or no faith at all? Are their professions of faith so overboard as to make others uncomfortable? As a non Christian faith leader I have no problems with people applying their faith or lack of faith to business practices. Pluralism can and does work if we all find the ability to respect each other and celebrate what we have in common rather than focus on what divides us. Christians, atheist and all other faiths can live and work together in mutual respect.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Nonimus

      I would add to your faith based decision making, what the profits are used for. For example, if some profits are donated to New Birth (Bishop Edie Long), St. James Church (Ted Haggard), Answers In Genesis (Ken Hamm), etc. I probably won't give them my business. This is company donations/support mind you, what employees do with there wages/salaries is none of my business, as long as it's not coerced (e.g. mandatory church membership and ti.thing).

      February 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  5. Watch this

    If you can't watch this, then you shouldn't be eating meat:

    Then read http://www.noshmeat.com

    February 8, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  6. Mike

    But don't you see? This article is further proof that God is imaginary. See what proof? Evolution is a lie buddy. You are not a product of evolution. You want to continue to believe that there was nothing and suddenly there was an explosion caused by nothing and from nothing came everything. How that explosion created trillions upon trillions of particles to fly across space and formed stars and planets and just by chance we ended up on a planet the perfect distance from our sun. That over the course of billions of year’s microorganisms began to appear and some crawled out of the water and onto land and became monkeys and millions of years later became human. Now we wait for another billion years to evolve into what? How did the toothpick evolve? How about the computer you are using? How about the car you drove today or the house you live in? How long did it take for pencils and paper to evolve; how about TVs and cell phones?

    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.
    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    John 3:16-18

    But God commanded his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

    Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

    That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved.
    For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9, 10

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

    The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. Psalms 53:1

    For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
    1 Timothy 2:5

    Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12

    February 8, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Joe

      Exactly. How DID toothpicks evolve? How DID cars and TVs and cell phones evolve???? These are the types of questions that need to be asked. Answer that, all you non-believers. I'd love to see what would happen if you put a cell phone in front of Darwin and asked him how it evolved. He'd probably say from a turtle or something. Right now he wouldn't say anything because he's burning in Hell for using science to question the Truth that the Bible tells us. Toothpicks ARE absolute proof of God, Jesus, creationism and Adam & Eve.

      What would Jesus do? He'd get a number 1 combo from Chick Fil A to go! (Hold the pickles)

      February 8, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Steven

      I think it would be useful to draw a distinction between the natural universe and the tools that humankind has invented (through whatever inspiration) in order to function in it.

      There are some things outside of the natural universe, but whose attributes are visible and useful to existence in it. Example, numbers, (one has never actually seen what the number 2 looks like, one has often seen what two things look like). These don't ever change. 2 will always be 2 whatever you call it.

      Then, there are living, evolving beings that are part of the natural universe, are visible, and knowable. Human beings, animals, stones, atoms, etc. These things can be observed to change based on a set of external or internal forces (climate, time, etc.)

      And then there are things that are part of the natural universe but are invisible. Example: thoughts, emotions.

      Lastly, there is what I will call scenery: toothpicks, telephones, cars, etc., which are the product of ideas, inspirations, thoughts.

      I think it would be dangerous to try and fit a supreme power (call it whatever you would like) into a convenient, knowable box. It seems equaly dangerous to be so sure about something that by one's own definition exceeds knowing.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Joe, I'm guessing that you are being sarcastic.

      First, I think Ryan was questioning the existence of God; he didn't bring up evolution at all.
      Second, I'm not sure what you know about the theory of evolution, but things that don't reproduce can't evolve. So, the toothpicks, computers, cars, etc. have not and will not evolve.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  7. Give Me A Break

    What funny is that while Tyson preaches out one side of their mouth they swindle and scam farmers who have contracts with them. Keeping them indebted at all times because Tyson keeps making machine requirements and upgrades that the farmers have to buy into or they will lose their contracts with Tyson. Tyson has a monopoly of the business and is currently not only forcing it's contracted farmers to breed such large birds that they are crippled and can't walk most of the time to housing them in large housing units with no windows because the chickens are more easily gathered and calm in the pitch dark. Tyson is just another greedy manipulative mega company, but then again it seems like most who go out of their way to proclaim their faith are usually the ones not following it.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  8. Will

    When are Christians going to wake up? The whole story of Christ, virgin birth, rising from the dead after three days, a great flood etc.. et..c etc has all been told thousands of years before the Bible. The Bible is just a rehashing of God stories such as Horus, and Mithras. There has never been proof of a Gods existence ( and there are hundreds of them). The only reason you are a Christian is that you happened to be born in America, had you been born somewhere else you'd believe in Buddha, or Krishna. As far as being atheist, every Christian is an atheist to the 1000's of Gods that supposedly existed, I just happen to believe in one less God than you.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  9. NOo..oON

    Absolutely... maybe

    February 8, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  10. Willbert

    I worked for Tyson for many years. They have great chaplains and I had a good relationship with the one in our devision. That being said...not everyone at Tyson's are good people. Some have their own agendas.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • ThomasM

      Yeah, except when they make people work in the stacks without any safety precautions. When those people die, it was the workers' fault, not the company for forcing to do the dangerous work. I believe that was in a plant in the midwest, maybe Kentucky.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  11. ryan

    now here's a company doing some good and there's no bible or cross in their marketing:
    See? Religion has zero to do with being kind, and thoughtful, and socially responsible. It pretends to, but companies like Tyson exploit workers, torture animals, and betray the real face of religion to light.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  12. MGene

    I worked for Servicemaster (we called it SlaveMaster) back 30 plus years ago. If they treated their employees now like they did then, they would never have made it with the labor law suits, discrimination claims ,etc that would have been leveled against them. We were conditioned as managers to believe that we were to give ourselves totally to serving the customer and were unworthy of excesses of praise or financial gain. They forbade going out with vendors for lunch or whatever, going to bars after work and even at one point..mustaches. I loved playing charades, but after 10 years I had enough.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  13. mary

    God's Holy Word says in Revelation 1:8, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending...which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." Can any of us really think we have stuff figured out? Just accept that the Lord is in control–not you. If you feel the need to respond to me, you should talk to God instead because I won't be checking back. God bless!

    February 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • ryan

      But don't you see? This article is further proof that God is imaginary. If there really was a holy spirit, "christ centered" companies would be the most socially responsible, most morally upright companies because they would be operating under the teachings of the new testament. Clearly, these companies arent, they exploit workers, ruin the environment, and poison their customers all with the sole intent of saving money . The love of money is the root of all evil, and these companies prove the root of all evil is in bed with religion.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • tucsonarizona1

      Then I won't reply to you, but to the others who think like you. There is a reason why they call you sheep.
      mindless goes without saying.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  14. Brian

    No Marriott?

    February 8, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  15. edandwillie

    Better faith-based than f*(k-based.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  16. Masako

    New places not to shop. I'm not giving bigoted companies my money.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  17. Garrett

    I like how everyone is refering to the Crusades because of course it was wrong for "Christians" to do that. but you have to do a little research next time and see that the Crusades were caused by the corrupted leaders in the Catholic Church

    now lets try taking the Crusades and any other violent act out of the arguement because there all started the same way

    February 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Lei

      All major Christian religions have the same root in Catholicism, except Eastern Orthodox. Until the King of England decided that HE was God's voice on earth, not the Pope, (so that Henry VIII could get divorced) Christianity and Catholicism are one and the same.

      February 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  18. jimmy the freak

    Seven new additions to my boycott list.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • OK

      Shorter lines for the rest of us.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Zebula

      Same here. Funny how CNN didn't have the guts to identify Hobby Lobby as Mormon.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • neoritter

      Zebula, I don't think they mentioned anyone's denomination in the article.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • MikeMazzla

      I think I can live without buying from these businesses... except maybe in and out burger when i travel to LA...sad that they are jesus freaks but the burgers are gooood

      February 8, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • not mormon

      Hobby Lobby isn't Mormon and the owners of Hobby Lobby are not Mormon. They are Christian and profess a specifically Christian faith that in no way reflects Mormonism.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  19. Gary

    I find it hilarious that atheists and non-believers troll the 'Belief Blog' so that they can post hateful or argumentative comments. Get a life. God have mercy on your souls.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Religious sects

      Your comment feels a bit hateful and judgemental.
      The religious complain but yet there is a belief blog and no counter blog.
      This is the best place to discuss religion, even for those who don't believe.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • MikeMazzla

      we are hardlying trolling.. the stories are listed on CNN home page so sometimes I click to read and have agood laugh

      February 8, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Steven

      I do believe in a higher power, but do not know enough about this power to limit it by putting a name on it. That would make me an agnostic. Fine. I'll take responsibility for my personal beliefs where they touch my life and that of those around me.

      As for religions being represented in politics, commerce, etc. I'm firmly against it. I do not feel that our founders (the ones who conceived of this great humanist experiment now called the USA), would have wanted religion to be a factor in government, but simply that each individual be able to choose what to believe and to execise that belief as she or he saw fit without imposing it on others.
      Many of us have ancestors who came to these shores to escape religious persecution. It would be a supreme irony to controvert the very principles of our founders and start to judge the rightneses or wrongness of anyone based on a limited set of religious ideals, and thus turn this country into a country of persectors.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • ThomasM

      I'm not a believer and I'm NOT a troll. I'm not trolling anywhere or attacking anyone. You say that "we" troll this blog. Nope, you are incorrect. This link was on the CNN.com main page. I'm just reading the article and some comments, I'm not fighting anyone.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Michael Wong

      I find it hilarious that Gary thinks "hateful and argumentative" are intertwined concepts. Unfortunately, to someone whose beliefs don't stand up to scrutiny, they may well be perceived that way. If a bunch of atheists get together, an argument is sure to ensue. This doesn't mean they hate each other. Argument is healthy; the first philosophers in history were known for arguing with each other. The original method is even called Socratic Interrogation. Unfortunately, it also has a way of exposing intellectual weakness: no wonder people like Gary cannot distinguish it from hatred.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  20. Meanwhile, back to the article...

    Neither people, nor companies, nor religions exist in a vacuum. Lots of people are religious. Lots of them aren't. Lots of people own businesses. If people choose to practice a faith, it's their business. If they own a company and choose to base its operations on the principles of their faith it's still their business (literally). Most sensible, reasonable people can live with that. If it is somehow distracting to them then they can take their business elsewhere. Hobby Lobby plays Christian music in their store. Michael's doesn't. My wife and I enjoy Christian music, but she goes to whichever store has a coupon in the paper this week.

    Every article CNN publishes with any sort of religious reference draws the same comments from the same groups. Rehashing the same tired old derogatory putdowns doesn't make the atheists on here sound any more intelligent, nor the Christians sound any more pious. Any school child could do the same at recess. Maybe it wouldn't kill anyone to have an occasional observation about the actual article?

    February 8, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • neoritter

      You hit the nail on the head, I'm gonna call you Meanwhile. I think it's a forgone conclusion for most of us that after reading an article that has even a reference to religion that the atheists will come out of the woodwork.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • itsnottheendoftheworld


      February 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • pete

      No dude. What he is saying is that both sides want to do nothing but put the other down "i use reason, you believe in fairy tales", "you're going to he-l-l if you like the g-ays" (trying to be funny with the "the" before g-ay). People act like the opposite of what they protray themselves as being.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Dave

      Interesting......hmmm. What a surprise that some of the companies with the WORST dirty secrets of running their "successful" businesses are soooooo righteously religious! Buuurp.....I think I just threw up a little!

      February 8, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Carrie

      I've barely skimmed all of the comments because I get irritated by the darts, so forgive me if this issue has already been brought up ... Concerning the article, I have less concern about businesses religious underpinnings, especially if they're at least somewhat honest. As a consumer I expect to be sold a product and it's my responsibility to find out if I want to support the business as well as their beliefs. However, what I don't like is the reverse ... when a church is implicitly selling a ... I'll call it a "package" because whatever it is isn't always tangible, such as a belief system ... for underlying gain. This is what I think needs to be looked into more carefully. Churches are magnets for both the vulnerable and, well, all sorts of people and should have a greater responsibility and accountability regarding what services are actually being rendered.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Lil Bunny

      Well said.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
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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.