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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. The Vatican folks beat off

    Trust me. They do!

    February 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  2. JBear

    This was just supposed to be a nice little article of interest and has blown up into some big religious debate. Let's face it there are good, kind, gentle people and there are mean, hateful, sadistic people in this world regardless if they go under the name of some god(s) or not.

    February 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  3. Gina

    Ecto Development Corporation uses religion as a means by which to discriminate against who they hire and/or who they fire, as well as how they overthrow and manipulate the law to take over a company.

    February 9, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  4. KD731

    As a gun owner I want the right to own a gun, but I will not force you to own a gun. As a Christian I enjoy all the benefits of being a Christian, Heaven included because of Jesus death and resurrection, but I am not going to force my belief on you. Even Jesus presented the "Good News" to those around Him every day, and not all followed. It is called free choice. If I chose to let people know that I am a Christian or that my company is Christian based I should be respected for my belief whether anyone else believes as I do. I may respect the belief of an Atheist but I do feel sorry for them because there is true peace and joy in knowing Jesus as my Savior. As a blind man only knows the sun by witnesses, I know my Lord by witnesses, form the days He walked the earth. The accounts are written in His Book, "The Bible."

    February 9, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Steve

      Would Jesus have owned a gun?

      February 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • yoda

      If you really and sincerely "respected" those with non-Christian beliefs you would not feel sorry for them. Instead you would unconditionally accept their non-Christian beliefs as expressions of faith every bit as legitimate as yours. You confuse "respect" for tolerance.

      February 13, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  5. uglyduckling86

    So, shopping at Forever 21 counts as going to church, right? 🙂

    February 9, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  6. Vynn

    You can add Domino's Pizza to this. The founder, from what I have gathered, intends to build an exclusive Christian community in Florida.

    And in addition to Service Master (Service to the Master) are all the many other chains they own, which includes Merry Maids.

    February 9, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  7. mmi16

    Religon – double edged sword!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  8. owlafaye

    Here comes Jesus...Look busy!

    February 8, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  9. AtheistCoolStuff43

    Pizza Ranch is Christian, FYI. It's nice to know about these companies so we can decide NOT to give them our business.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  10. Harvey

    Thanks for the article.. Now I know who not to patronize. as Lewis said, fascism will come to America wrapped in the American flag carrying a cross

    February 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  11. CauseISaidSo

    Trijicon, a company that makes weapons optics for the military and civilian markets, used to include on their scopes and sights a etched reference to John 8:12. After stories like this one, they discontinued the practice and even made a mod kit available to swap out the pieces inscribed with the verse.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  12. Patrick Lewis

    I could care less if any of these companies are religious at all as long as they don't use their profits to legislate that I too follow their religious dogma. That's the problem, it's not about Christians being Christians, it's about Christians MANDATING that everyone else be Christians too.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Seetheway

      So instead it should be:
      I could care less if any of these companies are ATHEISTS or UNBELIEVERS at all as long as they don't use their profits to legislate that I too follow their ATHEIST dogma. That's the problem, it's not about ATHEISTS & UNBELIEVERS being ATHEISTS or UNBELIEVERS, it's about ATHEISTS or UNBELIEVERS MANDATING that everyone else be ATHEISTS or UNBELIEVERS too.

      SO HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?

      February 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • DPW10319

      Finally a voice of reason! Exactly – worship whatever makes you happy just don't try to force everyone else to believe the same thing! Fanatical Christians are just as bad as Fanatical Muslims!!!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Teeray

      Are you trying to mandate what folks can and can't mandate?

      February 8, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      @SeeTheWay: As a proud Atheist and a patroitic American, I feel vindicated by seeing your "argument" reduced to nothing but a cut-and-paste rant. I don't force my lifestyle onto anyone else; Christians (or those who follow any religion) shouldn't either.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Peewit

      @Seetheway

      Wow, you completely proved Patrick's point. Atheists don't try to talk anyone out of their religion or belief structures. We just don't want you pushing them down OUR throats. I don't give a rat's hairy butt if you're religious or not, but don't condemn me with your belief for being an atheist.

      Have your little group meetings and pray until you're blue in the face, just do NOT expect me to.

      PS – I feel fine.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Hittman

      Agreed. This is an incredibly lame list, and a rather pathetic approach to life.

      It makes sense to avoid doing business with companies who use their profits to support things you disagree with – like anti-abortion or gay bashing. But the simple fact that some people use religious principles running their business should prompt little more than a shrug from any reasonable atheist. Whole Foods founder is a Buddhist? Oh NO! One of the most peaceful and non-violent religious out there, and we should avoid him because of that?

      Nonsense.

      February 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  13. LS

    Diskkeeper Corporation is founded on the principles of Scientology. In fact, if you are ever in their lobby you will find copies of Dianetics and L.Ron Hubbards Encyclopedia of business – a set of books on how to run a business using the ideals of Scientology. I applied there once, and found the application asks your religion, and was handed 'personality' testing along with intelligence testing that had no material related to the field in which I work. They do not post any of this publicly on their website.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  14. CWH

    One company that was not mentioned in this article was Grandy's (a comfort quick-service chain that is based in the Southern US). Growing up in Texas during the 80's, Grandy's would put Scripture references on all their boxes and cups. During the 90's, they converted the packaging, but at least of the restaurants would pipe in Christian music.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  15. paul t

    Thank you for doin the legwork for me. Now I know more business that will never ever see a penny of my money.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  16. William

    Christian stores do not have their employees say happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas to customer at Christmas time. Wal-Mart instructed their employees to do this.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Lily

      Decent Christian-run stores, who merely acknowledge the fact that perhaps not every customer is Christian, do.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  17. TJustSaying

    We can knock religion all we want but look up the most peaceful societies with Google and I grant you that you will find not ONE Atheist or Agnostic society. So say what you want religion at least can prove they are capable of being peaceful. I challenge you to find and agnostic society that has done the same. The most recent examples of such societies Nazi, the Chinese dynasties, and those in Russia sure have not fit the bill.

    peacefulsocieties.org/Society/Juhoan.html

    February 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Cat MacLeod

      Norway. Least religious and most peaceful and responsible on the planet.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Izzle

      JustSaying,

      While the societies you have pointed out were very violent, it does not prove your point. There have been plenty of horribly violent religious societies as well...groups of them exist today in the Middle East. What about the atrocities committed in the name of religion? Israel-Palestine Conflict? The Spanish Inquisition? The crusades? Even slavery in the USA has religious roots. Furthermore, the violence of these "atheist" societies was more due to an evil dictator or government than the people itself. I'm sure not all Nazis were atheist just like not all good people are religious.

      Finally...if you compare the list of the "happiest" countries with a list of the least religious countries, you will find many on the same list (mostly Scandinavian countries). Many of these same countries also have the lowest murder/crime rates. Sounds peaceful to me. I'm sure other factors play in...but there might be some relationship there.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Vynn

      Sorry TJ....but atheism and agnosticism are NOT religions. We don't have churches or houses of worship. We don't do things in the name of atheism or any other ism, neither do we advertise our beliefs for customers to see.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Vynn

      Hitler was a Catholic Christian...You woud know that had youd read "Mein Kamf". The Chinese are Buddists, and Russion has always been Russian Orthodox Christians. Fascism, Communism are political ideologies. American propaganda made them look like godless idologies, but they aren't.

      February 9, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • MarkNS

      Hitler himself was catholic and nazism was deistic with christian overtones. Sweden is 85% atheist and extremely peaceful. Iran is incredibly religious and quite violent. Your assertion that religious societies are the most peaceful flies in the face of all the studies I have seen. Here's one great comparison of quality life vs a country's religiosity: http://godlesspaladin.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/religiosity-vs-quality-of-life/

      February 9, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • jamie

      The Chinese who govern China are not Buddhists and never have been. The Chinese government persecutes Buddhists.

      However, the point that religious affiliation is no indicator of moral behavior is certainly well taken.

      February 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • TJustSaying

      I stand by what I say. None of you have pointed out to none religious societies that are peaceful. I trust you went to Google could not find one and then tried some made up justification. Norway is a relatively peaceful country but to call them none religious would mean there is no church there. Notice how I say relatively peaceful.

      Let me give you and example so you can understand the true meaning. A few years back some nut job went to and Amish school and killed a few young kids there. Not only did the parents of the kids not want the guy killed but the Amish in general forgave the guy and prayed for him. I am a religious person but I really do not follow the bible the way I should. I fall way way short of people like the Amish. They are not the only ones who live in this manner but I felt they were a group most would be familiar with.

      Second example is not of a society but a man. A Priest lost his brother to a murder. Me I would want to kill the guy. You probably feel the same as me. I am sure I would want the death penalty for such a guy. The priest however, forgave this man and prayed for him. There is no way I could achieve such a feat. My relation with the Lord is not powerful enough for such forgiveness. What I was asking you was what compels a none religious society to offer such forgiveness?

      February 10, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  18. Randy

    chick-fil-a and in-and-out are the two best fast-food places out there, consider me converted

    February 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  19. FacePalm

    See most of the counter arguments brought up trying to show aesthetic violence seem mostly political in nature. Communist probably didn't care that these were religious groups, mostly that they were groups at all. Any gathering especially those with a common backing could be a threat to their regime. However, since I am not a communist dictator I can only speculate what they could perhaps be thinking, though it would explain why in most cases social groups and races were targeted and not just religions.

    February 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @FacePalm

      Well said.

      Peace...

      February 9, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • civiloutside

      As I recall, Communism as practiced in much of Eastern Europe and Asia was explicitly atheistic in philosophy and also explicitly called for the violent overthrow of all insti-tutions deemed to be holding people back from its version of utopian society. In theory, all property an authority was supposed to be invested in "the people" as represented by the state, which was then supposed to transition society into a truly possessionless and classless society in which the state apparatus was no longer necessary. For some reason no Communist regime has ever managed to make that transition (possibly because the people running the state apparatus discovered that they liked effectively owning everything).

      February 9, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  20. Blessed Geek

    Walmart uses Christian servitude as a model for their employees.

    Hmmm... no wonder. I have always wondered where their employment framework was derived from. Don't worry about healthcare ... jesus will provide and heal. Work till you drop for the lord. Work hard for the harvest, sabbath has been postponed indefinitely till jesus comes - watchman nee.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Anglican

      Geek. No joke. Many walmart employees work 39 hours a week, thus not full time, thus no health insurance.

      February 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Anon-n-PA

      Don't forget Walmart's use of "Dead Peasants Insurance." The author should be ashamed and embarrassed for including Walmart on the list of "10 Religious Companies."

      February 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Anglican

      anon. what is that?

      February 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • darnae

      Anglican...
      I believe you have your facts wrong. It has been a long time since I've worked at Wal-Mart, but I believe if you worked 25 hours a week you were eligible for healthcare. I had it and many times didn't work a full 40 hours a week.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Anglican

      darne. thanks. peace.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Marcia

      Hey Anon -

      "Dead peasant insurance" refers to the company practice of taking out life insurance policies on "lowly" employees (like greeters and cashiers and so on) without the knowledge or consent of those employees. Then, when the employees died, Walmart collected a windfall. ( I think they insured each employee for $1 million.)

      They stopped the practice when a widow discovered what was going on, got angry and sued them. She claimed - rightfully so - that Walmart didn't have what's called an "insurable interest" in her late husband.

      Most states require someone to have an insurable interest before they can buy a policy on someone else. Why? They don't want to give the person buying the policy a reason to kill the insured person. (Spouses, children and so on are assumed to prefer keeping their loved ones alive.)

      February 9, 2011 at 9:22 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.