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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. Zalpha

    Don't forget Incredible Pizza.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  2. Mike

    Christians built the infrastructure beneath us, relying on a sane bill of rights that protected their faith with everyone else's. Now, some of those other faith's use ideology and false definitions of science to try to dissolve the faith that gave us eons of work ethos for which we should all be grateful and give honor. Where are honorable men and women today? Everyone has the potential to become one. Hint: one doesn't do that by being ungrateful for those who feed and build that you may live well.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  3. Laughed out Loud

    Wal-Mart, one of the most evil corporations in the US founded on Xian values, surely we'd expect them to be more honest, more caring, oh, I don't know..more Christ-like in their dealings with other humans. Apparently not.

    Tyson chicken? Hiring illegal aliens, horrific slaughter conditions, hormone (aka) poison laden factory grown chickens (versus free range human conditions)...Jesus would approve I'm sure.

    Whole foods? Just sold out to Monsanto on GMO foods. Yes they care so much about humanity.

    I am stunned, given the list above, that Monsanto isn't on the list. I'd expect them to be.

    Forever 21, for God so loved the world that he likes skimpy clothes. Excellent.

    Christian values are only words. I don't see "Christ" in any of those companies. I've never eaten at Chic A Filet and don't intend to start. Gay people are perfect just the way they were created and saying they aren't is saying God makes mistakes. I don't think so...at least that's what xians claim anyway.

    Mormons=corporation, as do many other cults here in the US hiding beneath the veil of "religion". Scientology, same thing.

    Religion is the cancer that is killing this world, killing humanity and cultures. It's why we can't have world peace (there will be no peace in the middle east until xians are not running this country because they run our foreign policy with Israel and if the temple isn't rebuilt Jesus can't come back...we all know he's not strong enough to just say "screw it, rebuilding that temple is gonna get a lot of people killed" and come back anyway.)

    People are mean, religion makes them meaner.

    BRB JoHo's ringing the doorbell.

    God, save me from your followers.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Jose

    THANKS for the other 10, Dan. Myself I'm familiar with only 3 in the list but it doesn't matter, they 're all a bunch of hipocrites lurking behind a smoke curtain of religion.

    Curiously, if Interstate Batteries practiced what they preached, their batteries would be of better quality and last a lot longer, yet they are the most expensive if not one of the most unreliable Car Batteries you can waste your money on. And just try to get Warranty on their batteries, they will give you a fight, blaming your car, your wife, your bank, everybody and everything but themselves. Ask me how I know this. These so-called "christians" are generally nothing but wolves dressed like Li'l Red Riding Hood. Now I know better.

    To be fair, I'm sure there are decent christian people out there, there must be, but those are not found in corporations.

    March 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  5. richard

    what ever happen to made in america banners? or shall we say, made in china. Thousands of job flown to oversea, shall we say that walmart converted to buddhism, and put many to poverty level.

    March 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Tim

      The "Made in America" was always a slogan for WalMart, but for the most part it was deceptive marketing. Many of the items had a picture of the American flag on it but then would say, "made in China" somewhere else. My parents owned a small retail store. We would hear all the time that everything walmart carried was "made in America." We would laugh, because you knew that name brand toys, such as Barbie and Hot wheels, were made in China.

      June 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  6. Chris

    You really dared to include Wal Mart in a list of religious companies? Really? A company that encourages its workers to apply for government benefits because it knows it does not pay them enough to live on? Hardly in keeping with the "workman that needth not to be ashamed" religious motto (2 Timothy 2:15). I believe that when the management of Wal Mart has to stand before God and answer for their indentured servitude they will be less than pleased with the reaction.

    March 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  7. Bree

    At risk of getting jumped all over by the voracious horde of above commentators (kidding!), I'll go ahead and voice my take on this. So, as I see, it's great when a company is secure enough to be able to make a statement about their faith, without worrying about the backlash, whether positive or negative. What's not so great is when they become hypocrites by, quite literally, not practicing what they preach. As far as the Christian companies (not being overtly familiar with Buddhism, I'll decline to comment on Whole Foods), I just want to say this: don't judge an entire religion by the actions of a few. I don't think all Muslims are explosive-wielding terrorists, just because a few are, and all Christians are not complete, contradictory hypocrites. And for those that do claim to be Christian, but don't actually exhibit it, well, they aren't Christian at all. The Bible even agrees, contending that people who are Christians in name only are anything but. I urge any rational, lucid fellow readers to not judge and condemn an entire religion so quickly. I'd welcome any response to this post, as long as you're not just going to call me some Bible-waving, Jesus-touting freak... because that's what I am :D. Anyways, peace!

    March 2, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Sarah K

      Agreed 🙂

      March 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  8. jonathan

    Two more companies for this list: Correct Craft, the makers of Nautic boats, and McKee Foods Corporation, the parent company of Little Debbie Snacks

    March 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • brin366

      Sierra Trading Post – a clothing catalog subjected Christian dogma to customers during online checkout process. Turned me off – no orders from me since.

      March 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Bob

    Hobby Lobby should only be an honorable mention, in my humbler opinion. My son recently completed his Eagle Scout project, and obtained donations from many retailers, including Target and Wal-Mart. Hobby Lobby exhibited their Christian values by refusing to donate, citing a corporate policy. Even Office Depot and Officemax donated.

    February 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • alice

      Surely you jest. A national company should be judged on whether it donated to your son's project or not?

      And every time a company supports one cause, it does affect prices for customers and its ability to support other causes, so what you're looking for is a transfer of wealth to your son's project from other just-as-worthy projects and the company's customers and workers. Very nice.

      March 5, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Rhearobin

    Its awesome to finally know why my local food bank has so much in it from Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck). Love those Buddhists. Thanks to them, hundreds of poor and homeless eat fairly well here in Austin.

    February 28, 2011 at 4:04 am |
  11. kuta777

    Walmart a Christian company. I must have missed the memo about completely disregarding human rights and treating people like animals being added to the bible. If walmart is a Christian company then Christianity no longer has anything to do with Jesus Christ.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  12. Really

    I work at a Walmart. That is the most UNreligious store I have ever had the displeasure of being forced to work for. I have seen their policies, I have witnessed the behavior behind the scenes, This store should not be on this list. I think I will apply at Hobby Lobby, WALMART, REALLY?????????????????????????????????????????

    February 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Blackened

      Forced to work at walmart? Learn a skill and our job options won be limited to such a limited amount of low paying jobs.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Carol White

      I am a former employee of Walmart and I couldn't agree with you more. When I became disabled, I had to fight them tooth and nail to get the pay I had earned! Their administration policies are far from Christian based and their poverty level pay is a joke. I had to work 3 1/2 years to get to the level of $10.00 dollars an hour and that was a huge exception to the rule. Others that worked above me made a lot less than I did. I was grateful for what I had and I loved working with the customers because I take pride in what I do, but when the company you work for doesn't care or acknowledge your hard work, then it's time to move on. You can't imagine how many employees end up in mental facilities because of their practices. I want to stand up for what it right and this company it NOT!

      March 7, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  13. Dan

    WalMart claims that they never take a side but walk through their book section and it's a playground of Palin-Beck-Bush-O'Reilly literature. It's like finding an aisle of stupid.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  14. MicheleG

    I find it odd that CNN labels this item 10 "Faithy" companies as if to call them CHRISTIAN is somehow taboo. Why the pusillanimous approach?

    February 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Rhearobin

      The list is "faithy" because of the Buddhist that was included.

      February 28, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Mike

      It still has Ted Turner's stamp on it. He once said he thought the Ten Commandments ought to be the Ten Suggestions. Every terrorist in the world totally agrees with the dissipate hater of his own country.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Mark

      TED TURNER "Christians are losers." (I couldn't agree more, boycott these blowhards)

      July 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  15. johnny c

    let's not forget all the corporations that worship money.

    February 26, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • HotAirAce

      While I certainly don't support everything companies do, at least they worship something that is tangible, measurable and somewhat reliable, certainly more so than anyone's favourite tribal myth.

      February 26, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  16. NOAH

    I can say same thin
    what is CNN doing in this world, just promoting unmorality, y destruction of the planet, but because they have freedom I understand they can do it, I do not have to chease them and acuse them,even when they are wrong.

    February 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  17. Human

    Religion is BIG BUSINESS to cheat people.

    February 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Mike

      Atheism is big business to sell books to people who dismiss philosophy, history, the actual scope of science, and everything else in a mad rush to do what they want and feel good about it. You can't sustain a culture, a nation or really any kind of world outside of Huxley's "Brave New World" that way. Goof.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  18. Coleman Donlon

    Good post! jfgoiprjg

    February 24, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  19. YBP

    Thanks CNN. Now I know where not to shop!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Mike

      That's OK. You can go shop where the multiple body pierced crowd cough Hep-C all over the produce. Loosifer.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Chek

      But OP said he was gonna stop going to Wal*Mart... You sir, are confusing.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Tia

      I'd rather shop at those places than with massive bigots like you, Mike! 🙂

      June 8, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  20. Thomas Glasgow

    How many times has the good Christian Tyson Foods been closed down for food handling
    violations,no one chooses to work killing and cutting up Chickens many times they and walmart
    are the only hiring show in town, Really who needs any of these businesses,really.?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • The Right Left

      It was not too distant in the past when slave owners use to bring in preachers to minister to the slaves, exalting them to serve their masters dutifully. Only good Christian slaves who obeyed their masters were given salvation. And the beat continues with WALMART, Tyson Foods and others of their ilk. Do we see a strong alliance of the religious right with the corporate world – Republicans???

      February 25, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Tammie

      Well I am glad to see so many companies are on the list and not afraid to say that they are GOD based, and to The Right Left I wish you and others like you would get your history straight befor making statements like that no where did Slave owners use preachers or the bible to sale slaves on the ideal of do as you are told to obtain salvation they used hatred and fear to hang, beat and destroy a race for many generation. Now for a little of the truth(the rest I would like you to find) the Bible and GOD's Word is what keep the Black race strong it build faith when they had nothing at all but that.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Holly M

      I agree with you, who needs 'em. Thanks CNN for a list of places I no longer wish to make purchases from.

      February 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • ROC

      No company or person is perfect – who needs them – the people who work there most of all. Unless you have another job for them my friend.

      February 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Mike

      Is Brazil Foods better?

      March 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Mike

      If Tyson was Christian it wouldn't have supported Clinton. Bottom line. Or rec'd favors from him.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:37 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.