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. ken

    any person or corporation doing business with communist china is not christian and is supporting state mandated abortion. you can not say it is christian if it does not hold to the basics of christian beliefs

    February 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  2. becabug

    If you will study World History, all practices have their beginnings in the spiritual beliefs that countries hold to. Our own country was built upon christian principles, not only in business, but in politics, education, and private. Although very watered down and weak in standing on these same principles, they are still found in most companies, political beliefs, and social programs. Even those that say that they don't hold to any particular religious belief have standards and practices that can be found over and over again in the Bible. Whether you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, or that it is just a good novel, as someone here has already said, the fact still remains that it has supplied many good guidelines in each area of life.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  3. Mack in East Texas

    Tyson's is reported to have imported several hundred non-English speakers to replace Americans in jobs in Nacogdoches, Texas.

    And what is a "chaplain," anyway? In East Texas there are only about ten men who aren't preachers of some kind. Everyone starts his own religion around here, and the tenets of the faiths are whatever mood the preacher is in on Sunday morning.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Magic

      Mack in East Texas,

      "In East Texas there are only about ten men who aren't preachers of some kind. Everyone starts his own religion around here, and the tenets of the faiths are whatever mood the preacher is in on Sunday morning."

      Hilarious! 🙂

      February 8, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  4. whitejda

    I am sooooo amazed at how such a simple article speared such a heated debate. We will never agree on religion – too many options out there. What I believe and what you believe do not have to be the same. However, I am saddened that too many have chosen to leave God out of their lives. It's not about a religion, but about a relationship with the One and Only God. I know that my ideology is not very popular and I don't want to continue the debate of who has the right thinking and belief system. Hope you all are having a blessed day! <

    February 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  5. Suz

    Tyson is one of THE most egregious offenders when it comes to animal cruelty. Seriously disgusting, and before you ask me what that has to do with anything, the Bible forbids animal cruelty. (In fact, Judaism – the root of Christianity – has a whole series of rules and laws that govern the treatment of animals, even those destined for slaughter.)

    Gross, gross, gross.

    February 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Nonimus

      But didn't Jesus fulfill those laws and therefore they don't apply to the Christian of the New Testament?

      February 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  6. Reality

    Once again, D. Gilgoff, the infamous word "filterer", forgets to mention the ultimate in the religion-business arena i.e. the Mormons and their $11+ billion business empire:

    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 b
    million, and that the church's nont-ithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million. "

    February 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • pattysboi

      I think that any religion that only allows a select few (read: anyone who gives a LOT of $$$) into their "temple" is a bunch of bigots.

      August 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  7. JesusFish

    *flop* *flop* *gasp*

    February 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Dead Fish


      February 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Magic

      Yes. Ichthys and a *crescent* roll to go, please. 🙂

      February 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  8. Joshua Ludd

    Being an Arkansas native and a former walmart employee during college, I have to say perhaps Tyson should spend some of that money they use to spread their religion to stop hiring illegal immigrant workers or at least stop abusing those workers, and if Walmart is a christian-based company, you sure as hell can't tell it from working there. They did find a great way to keep master/servant relations in place... you can still lie, cheat, and steal at any and every opportunity.. just do it to your workers, not your customers.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  9. Elizabeth

    Here's the thing.... if I am wrong, and Jesus isn't really coming back to take me to heaven, I'll die and never know the difference. If you are wrong, however, you will see the Savior of the world and realize your mistake when it is too late. But it's not too late now to step out in faith, pray and listen for Him, and see what happens in your life. What do you have to lose? There is a better life for you than posting on these sites and degrading the One who loves you, made you, and wants to save you. I don't understand why everything happens here the way it does, but I have seen God work in my life enough to know that I'm glad He's in control and not me. You can have that too. He'll do it for anyone who asks, no matter what you may have done before in your life. I'll tell you a little secret about Christians...we don't feel pious or righteous. We know we need a Savior because we are sinful and can't save ourselves, and are so grateful to have a merciful God who forgives us those sins.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      So the chance you are not an idiot is about zero.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      This is "Pascal's Wager".
      There is more than one God proposed as 'The' god or gods, so you odds are not 50-50, they in the '1000s to 1 against' range.
      You are 'betting the odds' that you are right? Is that the faith your God wants?
      If you are wrong you and billions of other people have wasted enormous funds and effort supporting a fantasy; funds that could have been used for better purposes, like feeding the poor or education.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • cindy

      Good post Elizabeth

      February 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  10. Leo

    There's a HUGE difference between Hobby Lobby, which overtly discriminates against non-Christians in its hiring and firing practices, and Whole Foods, which has NO religious bias in its treatment of employees. Whole Foods recycles and composts, Hobby Lobby supports discriminatory practices. Two different issues entirely.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Derek Nola

      Agreed, there are differences. Hobby Lobby is news to me and I certainly wont be supporting a discriminatory enterprise.

      February 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  11. becca

    Two more companies to add to the list: McKee Foods in Chatanooga, TN makes Little Debbie Snacks and Sunbelt granola. Kelloggs was started by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg a religious medical doctor and health writer and reformer.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  12. Prynne

    Buddhism isn't a religion...

    February 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • tintin

      Yes Buddhism is not a religion if you consider all these Abrhamic cults as religions

      February 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Duh

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but yes it is.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Mikey

      I'm not sure whether to laugh because of your ignorance or whether you are just fishing for a debate.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Lyn


      Buddhism isn't a religion...

      Really?????? Well, I suppose not. At least no more than Christianity. But then again, what would I know, I'm just a lowly Witch. <|;)

      February 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Perhaps you mean Buddhism isn't a theistic religion, which is true, i think. Religion in the sense of beliefs in supernatural but no god, per se.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • jCo68

      Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. There is a difference.

      February 11, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. Sam Brannon

    I just don't buy it, no pun intended. How can Walmart and the others tout themselves as based upon "Christian" or any other faith group when they cut corners on their employees to save on overhead. They all pay low wages and their employees overwhelm the local welfare agencies for health care and food. It is not the employees' fault that their corporate overlords rely on cheating them out of fair compensation and health care insurance to make their bottom lines look better.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Because religion is about money, not people.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Sheila

      Same is correct. With the billions Walmart takes in, they pay no health benefits for their employees and sign its employees up for state benefits when being hired. Also, when I was a union rep, I wore a union shirt into Walmart to do some shopping. I was told I could not shop with that shirt on. I told them I was there to shop, so they let me shop – only with a four-man escort so I would not talk union to the employees. Christian company? I don't think so.

      February 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Matty Steeler-Brain

      My mother-in-law was a manager at Walmart and was treated like dirt every day by her regional bosses. They help none of their employees, and crush local business. Not a big fan of Walmart. They may try to seem "Christian" to the customer, but they are anything but to their own employees.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  14. Lei

    What about Pepsi-Co? They're owned by the Mormon Church and the profits go to funding missions around the world to convert.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Torvis

      The Morman Church does not own PepsiCo.

      February 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Pepsi is a publicly traded company (ticker: PEP), as such they are somewhat controlled by their stockholders, which usually means a strictly profit driven company.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. Honest John

    I thought the CEO of Dominoe's Pizza had ties to the conservative Christian movemnet as well. There was something about this a few years back on 60 Minutes or another show.

    February 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Derek Nola

      I once contacted Dominos about that and was assured the founder no longer has a role in the company. However, he still owns stock so you can still view it as supporting this guy through a higher stock price.

      February 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  16. Mark from Middle River

    Wasn't this story about chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets?

    February 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  17. Twbm

    Chaplins are not the only people on the payroll! How many girlfriends of Mr Tyson are getting paid? You might want to check that out before you right this kind of article about Tyson foods. There is much more if you check in to it

    February 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  18. Dave

    This is to the Moderators.
    I submitted a comment (February 8, 2011 at 10:20 am) but it hasn't been listed as yet and the date/time (EST), now, is Feb 8, 2011/12:44 pm. My submission was not offensive in any way. In fact, I submitted 3 verses from the Bible. Why hasn't my comment been posted?

    February 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Because the bible is inherently offensive

      February 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Magic

      The automatic nanny filter here flags certain words (or word fragments within words).

      Bible quotes, however - no great loss.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • louis

      Satan done gotta holda yer keyboard there cappy banjo.

      February 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

      It wouldn't be because the "bible" is considered HATE literature by most "sane" people, now would it?

      February 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Stefanie Fuqua

      well, i guess nobody cares,... 🙂

      February 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Lucy

      USMCVET: You say the Bible is full of hate but mine says to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. Think you're talking about the wrong book!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • John

      The bible is a story book. Men tripping their balls off in the desert wrote that book. I coulda done better. At least there wouldn't be so many contradictions.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  19. person

    faith = really, really, really, really, really good person....grow up.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      faith= a narrowing of allowed perceptions and tolerances.

      February 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • YiaYia

      Faith does NOT = "really, really, really, really, really good person" nor does it = "a narrowing of allowed perceptions and tolerances". Faith is believing and having complete trust in something for which there may be no tangible proof. Faith is being certain of what one hopes for – certain of what has not been seen. As a Christian, I have certain beliefs concerning right and wrong. That does not make me intolerant or prejudiced. My being a Christian does not mean that I am perfect in any way. Nor am I free from sin – just forgiven. Many atrocities have been committed by various religious groups – groups led by human beings who were seeking to further their own agendas. My God is holy and just. He is also loving, merciful and full of grace. His love and forgiveness is available to anyone who will come unto Him and ask. Jesus will return for His people one day and I pray that we all will be ready. His will is that none should perish and that all would have everlasting life. All that is needed for eternal life is to ask God for forgiveness. Ask Him to come into your heart. Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – that He came to earth and gave His life on the cross as a blood sacrifice – an atonement for the sins of the world (the sacrifice of His life was sufficient to cover ALL sin – past, present, and future), and also believe that He arose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father, God. Anyone who will take the time to read God's word will realize that he does not advocate things that are harmful to people. Living according to his teachings will allow a person to live a good and happy life. Not always perfect or with everything we may want – but definitely with what we need.

      February 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Truth

      That's what HITLER said.

      February 13, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • Lucy

      Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

      February 18, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • John

      Faith. Blind belief in the intangible. You know, If I had faith in a giant white elephant that talked and proceeded to tell people about how he comforts me and forgives me of my sins, you know what would happen? I would be considered insane and locked up.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Chrusher

      Hey, John, good luck with that white elephant thing. I'm sure you'll find great comfort in it when you are on your death bed. BTW, I still can't find any white elephant in the bible.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • youdontknowjacque

      to: USMCVET
      I think most "sane" people would absolutely agree with you.
      to: Lucy as you post, mine says to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. Think you're talking about the wrong book!!
      is that the same bible the westboro baptist retrieve their hate? clearly they didn't receive the same version- please, most christians hide behind the bible pretending they love one another, but in actuality, they are the most racist, bigoted, haters out there... try Buddha out- all he says is be kind... something Jesus spread as well, yet got lost in translation...

      March 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  20. Claire

    I'm not bothered by company's religious affiliations, but when the religious based company donates millions of dollars to revoke basic civil rights, then that becomes a problem. The owners' personal politicas and affiliations shouldn't be an issue, but it becomes one when consumers are unknowingly donating to their political causes. Companies should be transparent with where their money is going. But this becomes a slippery slope–buys anything from any huge corporations presents a slew of moral issues. FOr example, when one buys clothes from Forever 21, that person is supporting neocolonialism, workers rights violations, severe pollution (among other environmental problems), etc. And I can't shake the feeling that Jesus wouldn't be too big on child wage slaves. Exploiting the poor is kind of the exact opposite of what He would do.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • louis

      Hi Claire,

      I undertsand your point about the violation of seperation of church and statem, but in regards to neocolonial-ism – What is the alternative for the people who would otherwise have no job without that back breaking work? Is living off religious aid better than working for aliving,no matter how crappy that job may be?

      February 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Ivybox4

      I have the same feelings about atheist and liberal companies!
      I'm not bothered by company's atheist affiliations, except when the atheist based company donates millions of dollars to push their opinions, & religious humanistic beliefs on us, and denty basic civil rights.

      February 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • jessica

      I think anyone who is smart enough to own a successful business, and has plenty of money to give away, has the right to give it to whoever they please, and thats the bottom line. opinions dont matter, they earned the money, they can give it to whoever they want. and by paying them for a good or a service, u r not helping donate to their cause, u r paying for your stuff just like u would any other time. if u dont like where the money goes, dont spend your money there, simple as that.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Raj Kumar

      Hi Claire, I am from India. I testify Christianity liberated us. Western countries did not represent christianity but missionaries did. You may against your western culture. But Christianity has always represented a selfless service.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • youdontknowjacque

      well said claire, I completely agree...

      I vowed not to shop at target after the news of the company donating huge amounts to anti-gay politicians, yet target supposedly supports gay rights... a bit of a cliche?
      Unfortunately, the public will not always know where their money is going... thanks cnn for this article.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:02 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.