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. Jennifer

    When I see a business wearing religion on its sleeve, I run in the opposite direction! We have "Christian" businesses that advertise in their own book so they can be sure not to do business with anyone outside their clique. I've actually looked in their book to see who *isn't* there before shopping.

    February 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  2. icedteaandlemoncakewordpresscom

    Sorry about accidentally posting that four times. The ceo of dominos who tried to make it a catholic company no longer works there. It is not a christian company either.

    February 14, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  3. icedteaandlemoncakewordpresscom

    Walmart is not a Christian company. Most bookstores sell Christian books but that does not make them a Christian company. At least get your facts straight.

    February 14, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  4. icedteaandlemoncakewordpresscom

    Walmart is not a Christian company. Many bookstores sell Christian books but that does not make them Christian companies. Get your facts straight. :/ and why the instant conflation of Christian with hateful bigot? That's not very cool.

    February 14, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  5. icedteaandlemoncakewordpresscom

    Walmart is not a christian company. And why the instant conflation of Christian with hateful bigot? Or is religious intolerance cool now? At least get your facts straight. Barnes and Noble sells christian books, too. Are they a Christian company now?

    February 14, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • auguron

      Well, if Christians would present themselves in a more civil manner instead of coming off as hate-spewing, self-absorbed, arrogant, ungrateful mongoloids they wouldn't even have that problem, now would they?

      February 15, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  6. Margaret

    It's revolting that a company that kills millions of chickens sees itself as having faith. Slaughter is slaughter.

    February 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  7. Michelle

    I can't believe that Domino's Pizza is not on this list!

    February 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  8. cat

    As others have pointed out, I find it disturbing that Tyson Foods claims to be a Christian-centered. Of course, now that I've thought about it, it makes sense to employ chaplains to provide support and counseling to people who work in such a brutal animal torture factory!

    And while Sam Walton and his family were probably good, Christian people, the destructive business model of Wal-Mart today is ANYTHING but Christian.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  9. Tek

    "Many folks know that Chick-fil-A, which recently kicked up a controversy by giving food to a group opposed to gay marriage" – I thought they gave a large sum of money, not food. If it was just food, I do not think there would be much controversy.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  10. Jesse

    I KNEW There was something about that Hobby Lobby that was glorious!!!!

    February 11, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  11. Ed Norton

    Oh no! You here that, "Gay Rights Groups"? Now you have even MORE companies to protest, boycott, and claim they're "narrow minded" and not accepting of all . . . kind of like what you claim others say about you.

    February 11, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • Vandy

      Just because a business claims to be religious does not make it treat people well, or make them treat people poorly. I have known (and worked for) a company that was very staunch in being a religious company and it treated me very well. BUT....if a company treats people poorly or supports activities that discriminate against people, then yeah, I will talk with my dollar. I don't care about their religious believes. They can have their friend in the sky. What you do to your fellow man here on earth is what will convince me to spend money on your product or not.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Ed Norton

      Well stated, Vandy! Great points!!

      February 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  12. ed-words

    What about Hawaian Airlines? Do they still give their passengers prayer cards?

    Definitely not a confidence booster, when you need it the most.

    February 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  13. Jeremy

    no one is forced to work at wal mart if you dont like it quit, and i didnt bsee the question of christian or non the application i got from hobby lobby. if you think wal mart treats its people bad dont shop there, or hobby lobby

    February 10, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  14. TJustSaying

    I have in the past giving examples that state that the people killed in the name of man were on the magnitude of 1000's of times more then ones killed in the name of God. But the fact was known true even had the evidence not been presented.

    Let me give you a real life possibility. You see a man alone with his wife and kids while stranded on and island. For years you have been all alone eating the same things everyday going without the companionship of a woman. This man has a family, farm, and goods he stored up that can feed you and the family for decades. One problem these are his goods and his family. What really would keep a non Christian man from killing the man and taking his family for his own? Who on that deserted island would be there to judge his actions? In time that man's family would grow to love the murder if he too took good care of them and there would be no God to answer to.

    If that example was to serious let's go with a more simple example, when you pass a man down on his luck pretending to look the other way who besides you sees your action? For Christians they know their behavior has been seen by God. But who is that impartial judge that sees the unseen misdeeds of the none religious? Who is with atheist when they see a woman drop her money in a deserted ally way making the decision to wait for her to walk out of sight and then pocket the money? Christians may fall short at times, but at least they feel they are held accountable for all good and bad things they do. Who holds the non religious accountable for their miss deeds?

    February 10, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • Slim

      That's sad in so many aspects. To do a good action, and know you are recognized by a "higher" being? How selfish. I guess this is also how religious people can get past committing unthinkable actions by assuming this person will forgive them.

      People who do not believe in a higher being do good actions all the time. And they don't require recognition, whether its from a real live human being, or an imaginary friend as you describe.

      The justification that people live good lives or run good businesses based on faith is troubling. What happens when a majority of these people find out what they believed is not entirely true? Its progression and evolution of feeling and thought that has allowed humans to figure out wrong from right. To do things because you know its right seems to be lost in this population of "believers."

      So, to answer your question: I answer to myself. I know what I have and have not done. I don't need guilt or a reminder to live a good life.

      February 10, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  15. Laura

    I can personally say I have dealt with Service Master and there was nothing Christian about the way they handled my claims. Going to Church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to the garage makes you a car. Actions speak louder than words.....

    February 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • GodCares

      True statement Laura!

      February 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Janel

      So true Laura!

      February 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • CB

      Agree 100%.

      July 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  16. Larry

    Walmart "Christian" huh? next time your in a Walmart check out the satan worship book thats mixed in with the Christian Books. And then ask any associate how they are treated. And bythe way I am not and never was or will be an associate

    February 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  17. Gwen

    You forgot Marriott!!!!

    February 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Gary

    There are lots of fine Godly companies out there. Here are 2 more.

    Buck Knives – Every Buck I've ever owned had scripture and a testimony of Christian Faith.
    Message from Al Buck
    (In memorium, 1910 – 1991) (As written in 1976)

    If you are a new Buck knife owner, "welcome aboard." You are now part of a very large family. Although we're talking about a few million people, we still like to think of each one of our users as a member of the Buck Knives Family and take a personal interest in the product that was bought. With normal use, you should never have to buy another.

    Now that you are family, you might like to know a little more about our organization. The fantastic growth of Buck Knives was no accident. From the beginning, management determined to make God the Senior Partner. In a crisis, the problem was turned over to Him, and He hasn't failed to help us with the answer. Each product must reflect the integrity of management, including our Senior Partner. If sometimes we fail on our end, because we are human, we find it imperative to do our utmost to make it right. Of course, to us, besides being Senior Partner, He is our Heavenly Father also; and it's a great blessing to us to have this security in these troubled times. If any of you are troubled or perplexed and looking for answers, may we invite you to look to Him, for God loves you.

    "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son; that whoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John: 3:16

    – Al Buck

    CrossBreed Holsters:

    Mark is often asked about the origin of the name CrossBreed Holsters. He is not ashamed to answer that, although there is some reference to the hybrid nature of his designs, the larger meaning behind his company’s name references the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross which was made for all mankind.

    February 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Observer

      "Godly" companies? Perhaps you should better label them "Christian" companies.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • derp

      I'm curious, exactly which type of holster did Jesus use to carry his glock?

      February 14, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • John

      Jesus doesn't own a glock, he owns a .357 magnum and it's in his right holster. Calls it "The right hand of righteousness".

      February 18, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  19. Harvey Lipschitz

    Who cares.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • GodCares

      Well said Earl!!

      February 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  20. Wendy

    WWJD – well I don't think he would treat animals they way Tyson does. Shameful!!!!!

    February 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • John

      p.s. I care because I don't want my kids eating chickens squashed in so tightly with other chickens they stand in each other's poop. That are shot full of chemicals and fat. Save 50 cents in the short run, pay thousands for cancer bills in the long run. God gave us this planet to be "stewards," not profit monsters.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • lccmcc

      Here, here! What an embarrassment!

      February 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Earl

      have any of you ever personally been on a chicken farm? i have i own one for Tyson, they are not packed in that tight they have over 5sq foot of space per bird, more than enough food and clean water to eat and drink, and the only time that they are "squashed in so tightly with other chickens they stand in each others poop" is when they are in transit to get to the production plant, witch is a 15 to 30 min. drive. as far as the "growth hormones", from day 2 of there life till finishing them out my birds are on my farm and i can tell you there are no hormones given to them. learn a little about what you are talking about before commenting on something that you have no clue about, don't just drink the P.E.T.A. Kool-ade. and remember, judgment of someones Christianity is not up to us, it is the lord our gods place to do that.

      February 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Russell

      5 square feet, eh Earl; why, you should have been one of the disciples. You're obviously much loved by that big grandfather in the sky already, who I believe hates chickens (he told me, in a vision; hates trailer parks too, go figure). I note that the Jesus believers are the ones on here who (a) make the sweeping statements, and (b) hide behind other men's words (i.e. 'the scriptures') once the logic of their own arguments are destroyed. Religion, truly the bane of our existence. PETA may be full of zealous fools, but at least they're real people and not just some made-up product of those seeking power, like that Christ fella. Perhaps there was a guy called Jesus who preached love and understanding...hope there was....but to think he was a biological product of a virgin and a puff of smoke suggests....well, crap, kinda suggests you're lost, have a hole in your soul, and are willing to plug it with anything.

      February 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • bisorioco

      you must be a veggie

      February 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • megan

      exactly! I think its interesting that they are so set on ministering to their employees, but can't spend that money on creating a better product or insuring a healthy environment for the animals.

      tyson can suck it.

      February 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Paul

      Am i the only one who remembers about 6 months ago how Wal-Mart was all about supporting the gay rights. How they were raising money for the NGLC (National Gay and Lesbian Coilition) (sp) I really don't see how they should be seen as a Christian group. Sure Mr. Walton was and founded it on that but he has passed and the ones running the company now, well i would say let it go to the dogs, but they have done worse.

      February 15, 2011 at 9:21 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.