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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. lavern

    Believe what you want and don't take away rights from others to live their lives, and I'll support your company. Until then, I have no need to go to Chick Fil A. If the other companies invest in intolerance and the anti-rights of any other human being to live their lives as they wish, I won't go there either. The beliefs are not the problem the ACTIONS are.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • doh

      they dont currently have this right so no one is taking any rights away. the only rights they have are the same as everyone else, they get to marry someone of the opposit gender. so go buy a chicken meal. its ok.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  2. Hindu

    @Dan Gilgoff - it is shocking that you are using CNN belief blog as your bully pulpit to publish a "hit list" of companies whose owners practice Christian faith. Are you trying to bully christians into agreeing with your views? Why cant you respect and tolerate the views of those who disagree with you? Isnt that the basis of democracy - otherwise we would have a thousand civil wars. Is that what you are trying to provoke? May we also know what your beliefs and views are? So we know what is your agenda behind such articles on CNN.com Belief blog.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  3. Jim

    Good list to see.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  4. jayh

    Thanks for the list of companies to avoid.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • jwill

      Please do – then we won't have to see you or your intolerance.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • jomama

      Bigot. For every one moron like you, there are 10 thinkers who use their brain. These 10 will go to these places, while people like you drown in self pity.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • John

      You accuse somebody ELSE of bigotry? They wanted to SUPPORT someone who held a view with which they agreed. You, on the other hand, want to boycott somebody, excluded them from your shopping list, attempt to hurt them financially because of their views. YOU are the bigot.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  5. yeachickfil-a

    Thanks for the list!!! I printed it out and will take it to my church so that my congregation can show support for all of these companies!

    August 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • jayh

      Good luck with your bigotry.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • jwill

      I think you need a dictionary if you think that's bigotry.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  6. Jason

    Alright guys, now just don't open your big fat mouths and dive straight into a hornet's nest.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  7. Ed

    Is this a hit list?

    August 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  8. Jules

    I know someone who worked for a company that even had Christian videos every Thursday noon if you wanted to go and talked about what a good Christian company they were. Then they were investigated for medicare fraud and other violations and had to let go a lot of people they had hired to do their dirty work. They double billed the elderly, took over providing medical supplies without asking them – all kids of unethical and illegal things. Thank God, someone finally blew the whistle on them.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • mike hunt

      i know someone who works for someone who knows someone else who knows someone that works at this place that blah blah blah blah. lies.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  9. JGN

    I wouldn't put too much 'faith' in this reporter's list of allegedly christian companies. As anyone who does not live in a cave knows, there are many ways for self styled christians to behave and conduct their lives, and just the fact that a company calls itself christian does not automatically mean they treat their employees better or assure their products will do no harm to clients or environment. And John Mackey of Whole Foods being reported as a Buddhist was most hilarious of all! The reporter is just doing his job, which is muckraking.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. cutedog2

    Thanks for more irrelevant information CNN. I can always count on you to deliver.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  11. hmmmm

    Now that liquor isn't just sold in state-run liquor stores in Washington, our local Walmart just took out their book section, including all of the Christian ones, to put in a huge display of liquor. Classy.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • lavern

      Awesome!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  12. hannah1

    Thank you for this info. Nine more places we'll avoid!

    August 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • jwill

      Good, then we won't have to see you or your intolerance.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  13. God is not real

    What is sad is that people will now support these said businesses for the sole reason that they share a religious preference.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • hannah1

      Maybe not. A lot of us will now STAT AWAY because of this!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • God is not real

      Which is equally as sad

      August 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • mike hunt

      Whats more sad is that people will more likely AVOID these businesses because of their Christian roots.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • jwill

      Stay away. Intolerant people aren't welcome.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. 'merican made

    Wal-Mart??? isn't almost everything they sell made by the Godless Chinese communists?

    August 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • hannah1

      What a horrible thing to say about Chinese workers. I'll be you're a Christian!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • mike hunt

      it might be horrible but that doesnt make it any less true

      August 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  15. cheapseats2

    Nice. CNN publishing a target list for religious phobics. With CNN being such a quality and unbiased news organization, I suspect they'll be publishing, any day now, a list of businesses that actively promote gay marriage. Equality, tolerance and celebration of diversity all around.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • God is not real

      I guess I didn't realize that equality for all human beings was that bad of a things.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  16. Matt

    Thank you for this list! Time to start supporting these businesses....

    August 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  17. Joey Merlino

    Wal Mart, huh?

    I am sure Jesus was a heartless baron too.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  18. PushingBack

    This is a silly article really. I am a gay man and I have nothing against these companies. You can be a Christian and not attack another or try to force you views on others. It's when you start to do that that I take offense. Really, the Chick-Fil-A thing would be a none issue without the monetary contributions to deny me rights. The owner can believe whatever he likes but when he contributes money to opponents of my rights, he's brought the business into my personal life.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • lavern

      Excellent post. Agreed. Oh, and I'm a straight woman.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • lavern

      i just get upset when a company/person invests in anything inequal.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Peter

      I'm confused. Did the company make political donations to deny you rights or did the company's owner/president/whatever? And you appear to be tolerant of his belief so long as he doesn't infringe on yours. The problem there is that you believe in limiting how he can express those beliefs, which is equally intolerant and as nonsensical as it sounds.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • mike hunt

      you already have the same rights to marry someone of the opposit gender that everyone else has. There is no infringement on your rights here.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • RLGESQ1

      Do you also avoid the 32 states, not to mention the states that permit civil unions rather than gay marriage, that define marriage as that between a man and a woman?

      August 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • lavern

      It's not that hard to understand. My rights are not threatened because I can marry who I want. I have loved ones who are unable to marry their partner because of investments into anti-rights groups that people like Mr. Chick Fil A actively makes. I wouldn't support a company that invested in anti-christian rights either. The ENTIRE problem is the action of blocking other people from having equal rights. NOT the beliefs. I have done, will do, and won't support anyone who does anything that blocks another free human being from living his or her life they way they wish.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • lavern

      I screwed up my last sentence – distracted at work. I have NOT done, will NOT do, and won't support anyone who does anything that blocks another free human being from living his or her life they way they wish.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • doh

      i cant marry who i want either!! i want to marry these four 16 year olds who are all my sisters. where are my rights?!?!?!!!?!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  19. Jules

    Excuse me, but why would J.C. Penny carry Christian books? Target does and they are more the equal in store types to Walmart than J.C Penney. That's a ridiculous statement. If Walmart is such a "faithy" company, why don't they pay their workers better? Why did women have to file a class action lawsuit for equal treatment? As for Forever 21 – nice touch with a Bible quote on the bag, but the real show of Christian beliefs would not be carrying skimpy clothes. It's just another case of do as I say and not as I do. As a person of faith, I never shop at Walmart because of the way they treat their employees. I find the public display of faith by companies and corporations is usually to cover up the things they do that are not in accordance with Christ's teachings.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  20. lou

    Maybe it's time to agree to disagree and move forward to better humanity as a whole.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:58 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.