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. Carebear

    !st of ALL-we're ALL sinners! Yes it IS a sin to practice/live in a gay/lesbian lifestyle. 2nd, we're ALL hypocrites! When I point out something as being sin, that does NOT make me a hypocrite, hateful, or 'anti-gay'. It's just simply stating the obvious! Humans judge the outward but God judges the heart(from the Bible). It's human nature to judge the outward-it's what we do and it's also sin! The most important reason for pointing out sin is so that the individual may understand why Christ died for them on the cross! He bore the sin so that you may inherit the Kingdom of Heaven(life eternal)! Deny the sin, deny the savior-deny the savior & the result is perish!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  2. Peter

    These religious companies have one thing in common...they tend to be the lower paid employers in their fields. It's the old soak 'em with scripture and keep pay rates low.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Stan

      NOT TRUE – Chick-fil-A pay is equal to or better than fast food outlets and they provide funds for collage.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • lilyq

      Untrue. Hobby Lobby pays it's full time cashier's 15-16 dollards per hour. If what you states is your opinion, fine, but do not mislead others into believing an untruth.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  3. Paul Wilson

    Chick-Fil-A should cease to give any money to anti-Gay groups. Such may be fueling murders of gays or people thought to be gay. It is NOT time for gays to "come out of the closet" and comic book companies should soft-pedal it on making their super-heroes gays.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  4. Argle Bargle

    Forever 21 puts the words John 3:16 at the bottom of its stores' shopping bags?
    And that makes them Christian or "religious"?
    Not hardly. It only makes them guilty of using implied Christianity as a sales tool.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • BYJ

      100% CORRECT

      July 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  5. Mark

    Why is it that if someone is in support of one the=ing, they must be against another? Are all things in life mutually exclusive? In order to be non-hypocritical (notice the spelling for you illiterate goofs), business owners must only sell to like-minded people? THAT is what is retarded about your arguments. So if a bar comes out against alcoholism, is it hypocritical to serve alcoholics? If a restaurant owner is Jewish is i hypocritical to serve ham, or are they pigeon-holed into only serving kosher products? It's always so funny to me that having faith is seen as a bad thing. Those who claim to be so tolerant are usually the least tolerant...just like that guys who says he's the best at something is usually the most insecure about his abilities. You hippie liberals are so cute with your 'enlightenedness". HAGD.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Noah

      "If a restaurant owner is Jewish is *it* hypocritical to serve ham" Come on, Mark

      July 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • endeavor43

      "In order to be non-hypocritical (notice the spelling for you illiterate goofs)...."

      Almost all words prefixed with "non" are NOT hyphenated [Chicago Manual of Style]. Thus, it should be "nonhyphenated."

      July 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • endeavor43

      Whoops! Make that "nonhypocritical"! ("nonhyphenated" is correct too.)

      July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  6. ahurdur

    WOW CNN u think tyson is a god loving company, shame on u, tyson raises chickens in darks warehouses and feed them hormones, so much hormones that the chickens can die of their own wait and cant even walk

    July 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • M. Weber

      ahurdur needs to take an English and Spelling class before posting.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Battabing

      Hmmmm...keeping their flock in the dark and feeding them guilt until they are crushed by their own weight...what isn't Christian about that????

      July 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • d$

      But how else with the chicken taste so good? Mmm... now i'm hungry. Think I will go to chick-fila...

      July 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • lilyq

      Oh really? In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not permit the use of hormones in raising hogs or chickens, turkeys and other fowl. Know what you're talking about before you spread lies.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  7. morgan

    The problem I have with Wally-Mart is it created two pipelines between America and China.
    One has products flowing steadily into America and the other has jobs steadily flowing out.

    Helping move jobs from a free, representative form of government to a dictatorial god less form of government does NOT sound very Christian-like to me.

    Then there is the fact many employees are assisted by the company to get on public assistance and/or food stamps because the pay is so low.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Stanley

      You are absolutely right and I never realized that. So typically hypocritical; almost evil. Thanks for posting.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Greg

      You're right. Employing anyone other than Americans is pure evil. At least that's what it says in the bible, right?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  8. Maria

    I have no problem with a company having a faith of it's own in it's corporate culture, management, and ownership. I have a major problem with a company using its visibility to spread messages of intolerance and hate. Whole Foods incorporates its faith by spreading Inclusion, sustainability, and tolerance. Completely the opposite of Chick-fil-a

    July 25, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • J

      Chick-fil-a doesn't spread intolerance. They said they don't agree with what gays believe, but they will still serve them with as much respect as other customers, which is what they said on their facebook page. Not agreeing with something, and hating something are 2 different things. Chick-fil-a is doing the former.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Evian Bidet

      I think that is a main difference between Bhuddism and Christianity..

      July 26, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Maria also!

      J, Chick-fil-A will serve gay people. Yes. But they are donating money to anti-gay groups. Whole Foods, as far as I know, does not do that. As far as Forever 21 putting John 3:16 on their bags – well, I've never noticed it, so I'm sure a lot of people haven't noticed it. And does it really mean the stores owners' are Christians? Or is it just a clever marketing ploy? I'll go with the latter.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  9. bibleverse1

    Love people not everything they do or say.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  10. Jim H

    Two of the companies in the list say they use "biblical principles" to help run their company. What in the world does that mean? (Perhaps this has been asked and answered already, somewhere in the 1000+ comments.)

    July 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • JCR

      Yeah, this article was pretty uninformative. No info on whether most of these companies actually give money to anyone or impose any controversial policies.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Think Instead

      It means they smite their enemies and take their foreskins back to claim wives. (yes that is in the bible)

      July 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  11. frmrmrne

    In the upper MIdwest a furniture store called Slumberland is owned and run by Evangelical Free Church folks. They used to hand out religious books to their employees and hold 'all staff' meetings to discuss them. When I was there I regularly received anti-gay propaganda in my mail basket.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  12. guest

    Gays and Lesbians are in power now. THEY WILL FORCE THIER BELIFES ON YOUR LIFE!!!

    July 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • frmrmrne

      Seriously? What are you yelling for? What are you worried about?

      July 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • JCR

      They will force you to become a lesbian?

      July 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Benny

      Comments like this are not helping the cause for equality....

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Laurie in Spokane

      What beliefs? Gay or Lesbian is not a belief, it's the way one was born. Moron bigot

      July 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Tinker-belle

      We have noticed that the gay agenda is to FORCE their beliefs on everyone else. That's what's so scary. This country was founded on the idea that you are not supposed to force your beliefs on anyone else.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • ?

      what is a belife?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • ?

      I don't belife you.Can you provife me with some proof?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  13. Marlowe28

    I can't speak to the other eight but Tyson Foods and WalMart are no more Christian than slave-owning plantation owners were in the antebellum South. Both companies are well-known for their poor treatment of employees, extremely low pay, lack of benefits (WalMart actually advises its employees how to apply for public assistance), gender discrimination and, in WalMart's case, actually locking illegal immigrant cleaners in the stores overnight.

    The six owners of WalMart, collectively, hold more wealth than the entire lowest 40% of American families. They can sell all the Christian books they want but we are known by the fruits of our labor and there is nothing about WalMart that would make Jesus smile.

    July 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • morgan


      July 26, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • J D S

      That sounds like solid Christian principles to me, those businesses just choose different parts are correct than you do. And slave ownership is a poor example, seeing as that book tells you exactly how to do it properly.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Beth Carrig

      Re. WalMart: ah, but you should have met Sam Walton. The kids have messed up the Christian testimony, but their dad was the BEST.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    If they are religious companies then we should all boycott them. Anyone with more than 2 brain cells and/or an IQ greater than 10 rejects sky daddies.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  15. Christian guy

    Just because they are religious or Christian, are they anti-gay? Maybe they belong to the UCC or some other progressive denomination.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • frmrmrne

      The article was about religious companies. Not about companies who use their religion to repress and attack. Many religious people are actually fairly nice, normal folks without a political agenda.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  16. Tom

    These companies certainly don't mind taking money from those that approve of gay marriage. What a bunch of Hippocrates these companies are and the people that are anti-gay marriage.

    July 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      It is quite possible to accept that same-gender se_x_uaL preference is a natural, healthy and moral orientation for some and still be opposed to gay-marriage. Two people of the same gander pretending to be husband and wife are both hypocrites. But, opposing gay-marriage simply because someone is opposed to hom_ose_xuality also involves hypocritical thinking.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  17. jay

    You forgot Little Debbie....whoa...

    July 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  18. y

    now I know all the places not to shop!

    July 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  19. michael

    at least toms and wholefoods are not insane like the rest of the list.

    July 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Turtleguy

    Thanks, now I can be sure not to patronize these companies run by delusional nutjobs.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • just sayin


      July 25, 2012 at 4:49 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.