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. JanIncarnate

    Tyson is a Christian company? Really? Then can anyone explain to me how this type of corporate behavior is "Christian"?

    February 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • david

      the report is dated 2004 ... got anything newer?

      February 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  2. live free

    The only religion CNN supports is Islam. So why don’t you get us a list of businesses owned and ran by members of the Islam faith.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Dave

      So, being objective on that account has lost its luster? I have NEVER heard anyone endorse Islam, or any religion, on CNN.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Susan

      What an ignorant thing to say!

      August 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  3. MikeBell

    Please enumerate corporations that promote social values that are not associated with some social doctrine that isn't bordering on religious.
    I'm for any company that has a business ethic that holds itself accountable to a higher authority than government regulation.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      I'm assuming that by "a higher authority" you meant the made up kind so loosely defined that it can be interpreted as supporting anything it's "followers" choose. Is that about right?

      February 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • UH60L

      And can br adjusted and reinterpreted to maintain control over the general population of it's followers. Not to mention sell them food, appearantly.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • ryan

      what he meant was standard, and not authority. It's pretty obvious what the implied meaning was, one does not need belief in an invisible man in the sky to have values and standards for their life.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      @ryan: Oh. Cool, then.

      February 7, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  4. 21k

    what do they do with all those little severed chicken heads?

    February 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • UH60L

      Make sacred wine.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  5. 21k

    "praise the lord and kill the chickens!"

    February 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  6. Greg Jones

    As for companies with religion in their DNA, don't forget Little Debbie, which was started and developed by Seventh Day Adventist industrialists O.D. McKee.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  7. alexCT

    i find it very amusing that a company like Tyson has chaplains in their factories, yet their integrity and business ethics are among the worst in the food industry, they enforce contracts on farmers who must spend 500k on one chicken coop to meet their demands at a 20k per year contract is completely absurd! they are just another tyrant among the corrupt food system in this country, do your research and don't buy their cheap and horrible product!...............................PS i recommend you watch food inc, and educate yourselves about this horrendous issues


    February 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Master_Kush

    Thanks for posting this CNN. I was already boycotting Walmart, Subway and Chic-fil-A, but i've added a few more to my list after researching them to make sure they are religious based organizations.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • JustCurious

      Your loss

      February 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Dave

      How exactly is it his loss?

      Sounds like these company's loss to me.

      Side note: As Christianity loses sway over our country, you'll see more and more people declaring themselves atheist, as they always have been. If you're not Christian in this country you are subject to harassment and abuse; this is thankfully changing.

      February 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Jake Johnson

      Why Subway? I did a brief search and didn't see anything about them having a religious agenda.

      July 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  9. René Marquardt

    You guys forgot about "Church's Chicken". Not punning here: it's owned by an Arab investment group, which is why all their food is halal (Islamic version of kosher).

    February 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Master_Kush

      I researched that and it is not true. They are owned by American company and are not religious affiliated..

      February 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Dave

      It WAS owned by Arcapita, an Islamic venture capital firm, until August of 2009. I know this because I started eating there once they took pork out of everything. I'm not Muslim or Jewish, but pork is nasss-tay.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  10. Shan

    Wow...first of all Eddie, not all founding fathers were Christian. George Washington was a Deist. Also, I'm surprised that no one noticed that the companies listed were all Protestant and no other non-Protestant companies were listed like Dominos, Charles Schwab, Levi's, etc. Hmmm...wonder why? Luckily I never hit the listed businesses anyway and I'm a vegetarian, so no chicken or beef for me!

    February 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  11. Willy T

    Didn't Tyson revoke the labor day vacation for a Somali religious vacation day because 'many' employees got vocal?

    February 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  12. Jon

    Raevyn, Cleanning up our mess that we abandoned in Afganistan, the last time I checked we were sending more troops over. As for Iraq you guys got out a long time ago. So what exactly are the Canadains cleanning up?

    February 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  13. M.A.S

    Walmart?? that surprises me. learn something new every day I guess. 🙂

    February 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • UH60L

      I think they must be talking about Wal-Marts in the south and east, cause out here in the west, do don't rival christian booksellers. Probably because there are fewer people buying that crap.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  14. Bannister

    Ok CNN, now let's see a list of JEWISH owned companies...

    February 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • spenceteeth

      Agreed. Attack Christians more

      February 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Susan

      I would go there, they have common sense.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • areligious

      Great point. Why does faithy have to imply Protestant Christianity? I wonder what the implications would be if CNN listed all the Jewish operated businesses? Probably not good.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      It's worth noting that being owned by a member of a religion and having a religious message somehow tied to your company are very different things. Short of possibly offering Kosher beef (which is really just an intelligent business practice), I doubt any of these Jewish companies go out of their way to spread the word of whatever they call their god (I forget, is it Yahweh, Jehovah?).

      The reason people may wish to boycott the companies listed here is because of their overtly religious message, not whatever nonsense their owner's happen to believe in.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Master_Kush

      "faith" means any religion....

      February 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • jamie

      Your bigotry is showing. This was a list of religious companies (the Whole Foods founder being a Buddhist), not a list of Christian ones. If Jewish-owned companies (or Hindu or Muslim ones) aren't basing their business overtly on religious values, then it's not relevant to this article.

      February 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  15. dsallen

    Aw man now I'm craving a burger or chicken sandwich! Thanks a lot CNN

    February 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • UH60L

      Me too, just not a "faithy" one.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  16. Denizen Kate

    Oh, and FYI, CNN: "faithy" is not a word.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Susan

      Lighten up, Francis.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Master_Kush

      Yes it is...And you know what it meant too....

      February 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Calvin

      it is code for hate Christians.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Susan

      If CNN is so terrible, why are you on its website??

      August 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. E

    Personally it doesnt matter to me which faith or non faith you are as buisness or w.e or waht you sell. The only factor is where that money goes. If a compnay is funding programs that mister religions that i personally dont approve of. I.E Christianity or Islam etc then i might pause and have to take a better look at funding appropriations. Like do they help te homeless etc or children..... if its all only in the name of their faith then i'll say no thanks. I would rather donate to secular humanitarian organizations than pay money to faiths i dont approve of to goto 3rd world countires and bribe the populace with food and medicine in addition to conversion. sorry for typos i didnt proof read

    February 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Master_Kush

      I'm sorry but i wont eat anywhere that would treat non Christians differently. You KNOW they use special sauce for customers that appear from other denominations, that is the Christian way..

      February 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  18. Denizen Kate

    Chick-fil-a is yummy, I don't care what imaginary being in the sky they worship. On the other hand, if Tyson is funding studies about "Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace" they can cross me off their customer list. My beliefs are not the business of my employer or my coworkers.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Susan

      I care if they support hate, and they do. I will never eat there. I don't think we have them where I live anyway – which makes sense, I assume they are in bible belt states or something.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Calvin

      CNN by posting articles like this is fostering hate against Christians.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Jellefo

      @Susan Huh? I think they support hungry people, not hate. Donating food is donating food.
      However, to argue your point, if you are going to liberally define the word "hate" as equivalent to "not supporting," then apparently you "hate" Chic-fil-a and therefore shouldn't like yourself.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Calvin

      Susan is a hate monger.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • dtacam

      If you think that Jews and Muslims are afforded the same promotion oportunities as Christians at Chik-fil-A the go ahead and enjoy your bigoted sandwich.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Neal Sheppard

      It's interesting to me how some people dismiss God as an "imaginary" being or a "fairy tale". Who appointed you the knower of all things? Are you so sure that humans are the smartest, most powerful beings in the universe? As a human race we have haven't been around very long (relatively speaking) but already we have the ability to build artificially intelligent computers and travel to other planets. A being who has been around for billions of years (or longer) surely knows how to do more things than we do, like maybe even create life. I'm sure our ancestors of 1000 years ago would look at our wireless technology of today and think it were magical or even miraculous. It's one thing to not believe in God, but please don't deprecate the beliefs of those with whom you disagree just to satisfy your own ego.

      February 7, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  19. jimmydean

    CNN board of direct0rs all w0r5h1p s@t@n

    February 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • str8 against h8

      Shut up moron.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Master_Kush

      Satan is a myth as well. Enjoy that fake fear you live in.. Life could be so much better for you if you got y our head out the religious "sand" as it were.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Calvin

      CNN desires all Christians should be put away

      February 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  20. Alycat

    Did everyone know that Sonic is also a christian fast food chain? corporate jerks too.

    February 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • King

      I'll drop by Sonic on my way home from Chic-fil-a. Family owned companies should have the freedom to do as they like just as you have the freedom to boycott. Let's see who gets hungry first!

      February 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Calvin

      CNN openly and aggressively detests Christians.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • TJustSaying

      Yeah I will be by there also. And I do not even like the food. If you do not preach as I believe you preach HATE is the assumption. You want to know what preaching hate is go to a radical Muslim Masq and see what preaching hate really means.

      Unless someone is preaching we should kill, hurt, banish, curse, take punitive action(In this case action taken to punish you for selfish enjoyment of your suffering), or judging you as in calling you bad because you are engaged in behavior deemed sinful in the eyes of God then you are not preaching hate. You are preaching a difference of opinion. Hate involves demonizing the object of your hate have no love for that person with total indifference to weather they live or die. Hate is powerful and understand what you are saying before you sling around the accusation.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dave

      @Calvin: really? Is that what you've convinced yourself of? Exactly how have you rationally concluded that CNN wants to holocaust the Xtians?

      On another note: Tell me how this fosters dislike for Christians. I don't dislike Xtians any more than I did before I read the article, I dislike these companies. Big difference.

      February 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • GoHomePalin

      Ummm, let's see. . . Sonic, Chick-fil-A, In-and-Out Burger, Tyson, Walmart. . . . Fattening fast food and cheap, low-rent retail. Just confirms my belief that most Christians are over-weight rednecks.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:41 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.