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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. Lily

    I find it hilarious that illegal-immigrant-hiring, chicken-torturing Tyson and serial Better Business Bureau offender AHS are on the list. But why cram in Walmart and ignore Domino's well-known, religion-fueled stance against choice?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  2. sadie

    Question, if atheists don't see themselves as a religion, why do they continue to post here? Just curious is all. I knew about chick fil a and forever 21 but not the rest. Interesting.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Lily

      Yes, Sadie, wouldn't it be convenient if the rest of America looked away from evangelical Christians' efforts to "take back the country" (which was never solely yours in the first place)? Sadly, it isn't going to happen. Christianity started with a sensible set of Sumerian laws; got tenets of basic, decent Stoic philosophy grafted on, and yet despite these inoffensive underpinnings has earned itself the deep distrust not just of those who eschew religion but of many believers who understand the benefit of separating government and religion to both establishments.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Its interesting that they put Walmart on the list and Bash J.C. Penny. Mr Penny founded Penny Farms south of Jacksonville Florida. It was designed as a retirement village for retired pastors.. For a long time J.C. Penney was the only department store not to issue credit cards because the Bible states that we are not to me borowers but lenders. It wasn't till his death and his family took over that J.C. Penney started issuig credit.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  4. C

    Hobby Lobby, hmm. Two years ogo on Christmas eve there was a blizzard. We were not allowed to leave until the work day was done. Many of us spent that night sleeping on egg crates on the floor. We missed Christmas morning with our families.Others chose to risk it and spent hours driving in dangerous conditions. Hmmm sounds real thoughtful.

    February 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  5. Thomas

    I worked for a Christian company for 2 years. They love to let you know that you are working to better the "Kingdom." But what management doesn't fully explain is that it is their Kingdom, not God's. They paid poverty level wages, expected long hours and treated employees like animals. It was pretty sad when the VP bought ipads for 5 of the supervisors while the rest of the employees struggle to get by on foodstamps.

    February 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  6. RightTurnClyde

    Walmart is a good retailer. A good business. Some people would complain if you gave them $1000 and free vacation. That's the kind that complain about Walmart. You will never see anyone who complains about Walmart go out of their way to buy American made products ... they just complain like a herd of cows. Pendleton shirts are American made and they are $100. GM Saturn is American made .. it can run to the end of the Saturn parking lot. Everything else is made in China or India.

    February 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Jaden

    Good articale. I would like to Know where these compays stand in the world ranking compared with the rest (worldly companys) Just to see if having a religues background in your company realy means somthing or not. The owner could love God but if the workers dont, dose it really help or not.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  8. w w

    Walmart?! Maybe when Sam was alive, but certainly isn't now. Shelves of spiritual literature does not make it a "Christian" company.
    I had to work at a mall one time, and saw Forever 21 displays. The Miley Cyrus of apparel.

    Forgot Republic Airlines whose CEO is Catholic. And Target who got flak for donating to conservative candidate.

    February 22, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  9. Jennie

    Chick-Fil-A sucked before I knew the owners were evangelicals. I wouldn't have gone to a Chick-Fil-A anyway. Now, I feel comforted knowing that I made the right choice.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  10. Matt B

    If religion such a scam, why are you reading this. If you hate christian and there belief why do you watch there videos and listen to there artist. Pretty much god has been taken out of most things. and see what happening. One day you'll realise the thing you talk so bad about might save ya. First thing you say if your about to crash or something going to happen jesus please help me. When a plane was going down what did people say jesus please help me. even Muslim have said that. Wake up and look at your self.

    February 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jennie

      What does reading about religion have anything to do with a person's belief or disbelief.

      Also, if "Pretty much god has been taken out of most things. and see what happening" then your god wasn't so powerful to begin with. If your god were so all-powerful, he wouldn't nipped that in the bud. Either there is no god, or your god sucks.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Lily

      Who said anything about hate? Fanatical Christians tout their soi disant rights to support only causes in which they believe, defy the legal requirement to purchase health care insurance because they believe their invisible sky parent will fix their broken legs and whatnot, and claim – wrongly – that their fairy tales were the nation's moral foundation. All this while greedily sucking all the tax exemptions they can. Loyal Americans of whatever religious belief or non-belief see through this self-serving perversion of freedom of religion to "freedom of MY religion." Like the other fanatics, the only voices you want to hear are those of your fellow delusionals.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Lily

      For you and your fellow fanatics only, not people of true faith: for as long as you scam artists persist in trying to subvert our country to benefit your religious organizations, true Americans will indeed keep tab on those profiting from us and ploughing the profits back into PACS or, like the Kochs, into action against working Americans. Until and unless your American Taliban takes over, you will occasionally be confronted with opinions different from your own. It's a conflict the rest of us worked out in kindergarten.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  11. EPB

    Lol, gotta love the athiest nitwits who troll the Belief Blog looking to inject their hatred into comments sections. Whether you believe in a god or not, what's really going on in your life?

    February 19, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Jessica

      How in anyway is that comment representing Christ or what He stands for. You just interjected your hatred for atheists by saying that. Christians wonder why people call us hypocrites. James 3:7-9 says "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. " We should not be speaking ill of the muslim, the atheist, the buddhist, the hindu, or even the satanist. We should be walking in accordance to the Word. We should be loving them. We should be praying for them. We shouldn't argue religion or God with them. We should ask Holy Spirit to change their hearts. It's not by man's will that any should be saved but only through the conviction of Holy Spirit. Shame on us for judging...

      February 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • 3vix6

      Just because we read other books than the single one book that you've read in your life and we question the legitimacy of a book that preaches violence or blind obedience over intelligence does not make you any greater or better of a person.

      In fact, I can't wait for the Rapture (which won't happen.. Sorry) or this current crop of religions to become fiction. I think the world will be a lot more quiet of a place.

      Unlike you, instead of following childish stories to make my life whole, I realize my mortality.. and I don't need a book to make my choices or to tell me right from wrong.

      February 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Lily

      @Jessica, if more Christians behaved like you and looked at their own behavior first, they would enjoy the reputation the good ones deserve. Thanks for injecting a note of sanity and of courtesy. And while your prayers won't change my beliefs, no sane person could take issue with genuinely good intentions that don't cause any harm.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  12. John

    If there was a god then why does he never answers my prayers? I'm a sinner of the worst sort, and according to your book, the EXACT kind god is trying to reach. Every interaction i've had with church has just been horrible. Bigotry, hypocracy, greed, corruption. I was raised in the church and I got out asap for a reason. Unless your into being a mindless drone just spouting verses which you have absolutely no understanding of, religion is just a waste of time AND money. The church scams more money out of the american people in a day than those nice people in nigeria ever will.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Kelly

      I am sorry for your prayers not being answered, but that's no reason to be so angry. I also pray to God and he has answered the vast majority of my prayers. The ones not answered, I have accepted the outcome with grace and understanding. No, I'm not a mindless drone, but rather have a strong faith. It's rather difficult to run a successful $6 million company (which I do) and be a mindless drone. I will add you to my prayers. God Bless!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • justbelieve

      First off, have you asked God into your life. Have you accepted Him for who He is. For God to answer your prayers you must first believe and accept. How can you expect God to answer your prayers if you are not willing to accept Him. Don't get me wrong, God will hear you, but He doesn't have to respond. I too have made several prayer requests and some have been answered and some have not, they are accepted as His will either way. As for what you were saying about church and religion...I am sorry that you have had those experiences...just as God accepts you as you are when you come to Him, so too at my church we accept you who you are and all we do is show love, the way that God would.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      God probably thinks you are not finished complaining .. so He is politely waiting for your to finish. Who knows you may have to finish you complaints when you get in front of Him.

      February 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • rman

      Hey, John maybe it is because you spell His name with a lower case 'g" it should be God. Maybe it is that you approach Him with contempt instead of reverence. God will not honor those that call on his name and mock him at the same time. If you are going to try something and claim it doesn’t work, you should at least follow the rules. Read the Bible. Those are the rules for making God alive in your life. Mathew 6: 33 says to seek Him first and His righteousness and all will be given to you. You also have to mix it with faith. Reference Mathew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples that if they had the faith of a mustard seed, that a mountain would be cast into the sea upon their command. In John 14:12 Jesus tells that we have the ability to accomplish the same that Jesus did and more, but He will not provide you with the gifts of the Spirit if you are going to test Him in a way that mocks Him. Jesus said in Mathew 4:7 that you should not test the Lord your God. By testing him by asking him to show up to prove himself to you, you are proving your unbelief and lack of faith (see faith above). You cannot just say: "God does not exist" because he did not show up the first or even the 100th time you called his name. He is not a party trick that you command to do things for you. By the way, He still loves you no matter what. Can you say the same about yourself towards others and toward Him that made you? It is said in the word that in the final days that the wise will be confounded. You are deceived by your own self righteousness and reliance on your own intellect. I will pray for you to see the word of God for what it is – the truth. Think about this....if God does not exist then where did the energy and mass that formed the universe, in the mind of science, come from?

      February 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Lily

      @rman, does it worry you that all your arguments could be used without the slightest alteration to persuade children that Santa Claus exists, even though they didn't get that pony?

      February 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  13. John

    I'm just sick of people blindly believing in something that JUST DOES NOT EXIST. IF THERE IS A GOD THEN I PRAY FOR A QUICK DEATH, BECAUSE WE ARE ALL SINNERS AND DESERVING OF DEATH according to your loving book. /spit

    February 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Sam

      Well, that's why Jesus became a man and died for our sins, because if he did not do that, then what you said would have happened already. because like what it says in the Bible "The wages of sin is death." But because of God's love, We are given the option to accept Him as Lord and Savior and be saved. not only from spiritual death, but from Hell (Which actually made for Satan and his angels)

      February 22, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • rman

      Read the New Testiment....God sent his son Jesus to save you from the death that you talk about. You have to do your part and seek and accept him....John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

      February 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • jon

      feel sorry 4 u...maybe u should read the loving book before shooting off like u know all about it!!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • 3vix6

      SAME HERE!

      If we quit caring about the life hereafter that is mostly in fairy tales and focus on the lives we have.. Search for meaning in the things that we love and not give into the giant pyramid scheme that is religion. Prove the origins of the Universe by actually exploring them not hinder science at the hands of an invisible man. To seek the fact and not glorify the fiction...

      Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.. please read up on ancient civilizations and other cultures that existed long before you.. Christians, you'll find you've been horribly duped as Jesus wasn't the first man to be born of a god, to walk on water or be raised from the dead for that matter. The genealogy of Jesus (Yeshua as called by the Jews) would make it impossible for him to be the messiah because the bloodline that he is from, no matter from if you take it from Mary or Joseph, was cursed via Jeconiah of the Tribe of Judah. None of Jeconiah's decendant's (Yeshua/Jesus included) could take the throne of David.. Meaning, That Jesus is a fraud according to the old Testament. Your infallible book proves it.

      Once more people realize that the only Gods that are on this earth and above it are the ones that we create, we will become a more free and prosperous people than we ever have been.

      February 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Lily

      Sam, rman, jon...you'd be surprised how much better informed nonbelievers are than believers, as LiveScience found. I realize your arguments are convincing to you, but saying "my magic book is right because my magic book says so" is less than compelling to the rest of us.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  14. Millard

    Putting Walmart ANYWHERE on a list of (Christian) businesses is laughable. My brother worked for them and he can tell you they are anything but Christian!

    February 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  15. saywhat?

    Why isnt CVS Pharmacy on this list? They have a section just for Christian books Im just saying...

    February 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Braden

    Be clear that the Walton's do not own Walmart. They have a significant stock in Walmart. My family are friends with the Walton's and they are genuinely sweet and compassionate people.

    I'm happy some people choose to put a reason to be in business. What's life without a cause? Where's the motivation to make something of it (business included)? These are obviously rhetorical. I'm hesitant to post anything on such a touchy matter that people are really getting bent out of shape for via comments.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  17. Thomas

    Walmart? Give me a break. Of course they are a threat to Christian bookstores. They drop their prices so much that no one can compete. And they treat their employees pretty terribly. I'm assuming 'the man' made you add that one to the article.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  18. skye

    Everyone has a right to their opinion and belief; period. I have nothing against these companies or the services they provide, however, I will not do buisness with them. Why? Because I would never donate my money to the causes they support and if I were to do buisness with them, that's what I'd be doing. The money they send to groups and political orginizations that I disagree with comes from their patrons. I choose not to be a patron. And please, don't be so infantile as to assume that I am a Godless Heathan simply because I do not wish to support the causes these companies support. I just prefer not to use my love of God as justification for harming or oppressing others. Love your neighbor as you love yourself – it's too bad some of you on this forum can't embrace that. Leave the judgement to God; after all, that's "his" job – not ours.

    February 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Shawn Stewart

      Well Said!

      February 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • toxictown

      Of course the article didn't really say what causes they support – just that they had a religious bent. There is a huge spectrum of potential causes both left and right and/or they may not support any causes at all.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. jwyoming

    The minute Wal-Mart went on the list you knew it was a phony list. Chic fil A i slegis but the others are just coat tailers and of course Wal-Mart is the satan in the hen house

    February 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Julie

      I call shenanigans. Wasn't Tyson Foods the company that recently dropped the Labor Day federal holiday in favor of giving employees the day off for Eid, a muslim holiday? Wal*Mart's practices aren't those that would be classified as Christian. Where are Marriott and Target?

      Either this is simply a poorly written piece, or the writer didn't do his research.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Mike

      Domino Pizza should be on this list, too. ANTI-CHOICE owner is a relgious fanatic!!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • SB

      "No True Scottsman" fallacy. Just because Wal-Mart is not as virtuous as you would like (I agree their labor practices are down right evil) does not mean their Christian foundation is false.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  20. Ang

    I like Whole Foods...good store...good people...now why do they descriminate against handicapped folks by having only two or three handicapped parking spaces in their parking lot? I have mentioned this to one of their PR folks. they blame the owner of whatever center they lease from. they must lease from a lot of insensitive and law breaking owners– all their stores have only two or three handicapped parking spaces. the only reason I bring this up is that it is often difficult for me to shop at Whole Foods– I use a wheelchair - I need the car door open all the way– its the reason I need the wider handicapped parking space. our older population is increasing in number, and so is the handicapped population. shouldnt there be more parking spaces to accommodate these folks? Wal-Mart and other stoes have put more in.

    February 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Adrian

      A couple things: 1) Handicapped parking is ubiquitous EVERYWHERE you go. If there isn't enough, that's not the fault of the lease holder, contractor or the building occupant, it just means that, for whatever reason, a lot of disabled citizens wanted to access the facility at the same time. 2) I have witnessed many, many times people without real disablities (read: using someone else's placard, or the fact that you can get the placard for silly things like carpal tunnel syndrome or, apparently, just being so obese that you can't really walk that well). So blame those misuing the system, not a business. Thank you for reading.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Lee

      Thanks for the article on Christian companies. Now I have a handy list of retailers to avoid since I do not go to stores for religious purposes.

      February 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Joker

      Thank you for the list...now I know who I need not support. 🙂

      February 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • jon

      The problem is half the people who have handicapped tags are NOT handicapped that they cant walk!! even folks with mental handicaps have them! Thats why stores have to keep adding more and more spots! IYou never see those 15 or 20 in the Hcap Parking spots in Walmart with a cane ,crutches or wheelchair do you?
      Unless they have difficulty walking or cant walk ( in W/C) then they should NOT have handicap tags!!
      And being to fat should be reason to walk further!

      February 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
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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.