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. Price

    I thought politics had become polarized beyond all reason; but, help!! Now we can't even stop at Chick Fillet, then pick up a carton of Ben and Jerry's for dessert without making it some sort of politcal statement. Frankly, this is too absurd. (And if CNN had wanted to write a balanced article, they would have included companies that support religions other than Christianity.) One final point: For those of the Christian faith, it really doesn't do any good to quote Scripture to non-believers. So irritating; like someone quoting the Koran to Christians, it has little effect. Use history and reason (for example, it was William Wilberforce, a devout Christian, who sacrificed his fortune and his health to have slavery outlawed; and for non-Christians who claim all Christians are intolerant, you are painting with too broad a brush, and opening yourselves up, alas, to the same charge.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  2. Jimbo

    Chic-fil-a serves hermaphrodite chickens, what's all this gay talk? They aren't gay chickens, you are all ignorant if you don't know the difference between gay, transgender and hermaphrodite chickens.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Roberts

    The issue is NOT religion. The issue is that the money I would spend on my chicken sandwich and fries may go straight to the anti-gay marriage cause. I don't support that cause, so I go somewhere else to spend my money. I don't decide where to shop based on religion, but I will stop shopping somewhere if I know my money could go to a cause I don't support.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Pat

      Can you source your claim that the money goes to support anti-gay groups? I didn't think so.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  4. Ashley

    I don't see why any of this matters – especially the huge stink over Chick-fil-a. They are a private company – they can hold whatever beliefs they would like. Perhaps we don't agree with them. We still shouldn't disregard their right to the first amendment.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Athiest

      Chick Fil A is in good company. The KKK is also granted the right to hold racist and bigoted views by the first amendment.

      G-ay marriage is an issue for the upper courts, frankly I have no say in it. But I do recognize discrimination and intimidation when I see it. And it sickens me that more americans don't put their foot down and walk out the door.

      Too busy getting fat and shoving chicken sandwiches in their mouths. You all disgust me. Have some ba-lls and stand up to bullies.


      August 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  5. Danimal

    Just because a company is religious doesn't necessarily mean they are anti-gay. I mean, not all religious people are backwards, hateful, narrow and stupid.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • reason

      ^^ but apparently all liberals are.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • NickZadick

      I don't see how a rational person can justify believing in ancient myths and fairy tales...

      August 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  6. sbeth1

    Wow. Companies are not allowed to have any beliefs today be they religious or not? It is so simple. Do not support their business. Take your dollars elsewhere.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Mike

    Have any of them given money to hate groups? If not, you need to STFU.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • sbeth1

      They could be donating to the Mickey Mouse Club for all I know. I just shop where I want for what I want. I could not possibly care less about their affiliations.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  8. Mike B

    "Servant Leadership" has it's foundation in all faiths, not just christianity. Any surface level undergrad researcher would discover this if they looked. It is a leadership model that has been embraced as a way forward by treating people with respect, and developing them as future leaders. It is not correct to label it a "Christian leadership model". I wish CNN would do better research, dissapointed.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  9. reason

    im confused, Chick-fil-a issue isnt that they are christian, its that they give money to anti gay marrage. there is no evidence (at least in this artical) that these companies do. So whats the point of listing them? there are thousands of companies, larg and small, that are christian based. this artical is just trying to show how biased and left and anti-christian CNN is.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  10. jim

    Thanks CNN! I'll start giving these businesses more business!

    August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Jimbo

    Gays gays gays, everday, gays all over the place, in the news, at the park, creaping in the dark, I'm afraid.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  12. Athiest

    Who cares if companies are religious or not so long as they do not discriminate.

    And I would add that since there is no god, and religion is a fairy tale, those that discriminate on the basis of religion are basically being bigots for no reason whatsoever. Hating people for no reason whatsoever.

    We use to discriminate and hate based on race. Now we have a black president. But the mental midgets of the world have found someone new to hate. An invisible enemy that can not be physically identified, so they are free to rally their people around their ideas of hatred, with an unseen evil.

    When are you backwards in bred fairy tale believing religious zealot conservatives going to realize that it is only us on our planet?

    There is no you or any me. There is US. We are all here together, let's try to work together and move forward instead of bringing back old concepts that have proved futile.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • sbeth1

      No You or ME anymore. That sounds like a collective. Borg?

      August 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  13. Sue

    So Terminex serves their creator by spreading chemical poisons everywhere??? The hypocrisy of right wing christians trashing this planet is astounding.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • JECD

      Amen. Made a list. Not shopping at these places. And don't do Walmart anyway due to how they treat employees
      and put main st. out of business.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  14. KMC

    Now I know where not to shop!! Thanks CNN

    August 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  15. Sy2502

    I can't stand bigotry of any kind, but I have to begrudgingly acknowledge the right of people to their own opinions and beliefs. While I don't agree with them, I am reluctant to penalize them. The thought of a society with completely uniform thought makes me think of horrid places like North Korea.
    As for Chick-fil-A, I don't eat junk food in general, I wouldn't eat there even if I agreed with their position, which I don't.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • DKS

      I totally agree.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  16. jimdog33

    Walmart is almost single-handedly destroying free & open markets while sustaining Chinese manufacturing interests.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  17. CCD

    Companies that seriously support Planned Parenthood, since we're posting lists now CNN:
    Pernod Ricard (alcoholic beverages), TD Bank Group, Wyndham Hotels, NACCO Industries (appliances), Whole Foods Market, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Danone (Dannon products), Wells Fargo, Chevron, eBay/PayPal, Midas (auto care), Nike, Marriott Hotels, Johnson & Johnson, Staples, Microsoft, and Darden Restaurants....and this is just a partial list

    August 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Thanks

      Please post more. I need to know who to support!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • shiny

      Cool, now I have a shopping list. Thanks!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • KMC

      I'll be sure to support those companies, thank you!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Maureen

      Sweet, can't wait to shop there- thanks!

      August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Momof3

      Sweet! I already knew most of them, but it's nice to have a complete list of stores/businesses to patronize...

      August 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • HenryB

      So what is your flipping point. Why do you place Planned Parenthood somehow as the polar opposite of today's so-called "Christians"? A slight difference.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Athiest

      Let's hear it for these forward thinking companies who care about women's health.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • patrick

      Thank You.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  18. Rick

    Hate the sin love the sinner. That's what Jesus did.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  19. Natalie

    It's amusing that Forever 21 is a Christian-based store, yet they carry a maternity line fit for teenagers.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • DeFace

      Religious hicks are the sauciest.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Athiest

      Religion is a business and they want babies who grow up into donating adult drones.

      Why do you think the Catholic church outlawed contraception. Extra babies is a good thing for them.

      Completely irresponsible motives by an evil empire. People need to be responsible about procreation or it will lead to overpopulation and war over resources. We're already at war over oil, a dwindling resource, instead of spending time looking for other renewable energy sources.

      Just wait til we're at war over water, or food. That's when it gets fun.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  20. Rick

    Romans 1:24
    Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    Romans 1:27
    And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    John 8:44
    You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Brad

      Hey, Rick. Nice cut & paste job. Funny how you left out the part between the 2 entries from Romans you posted that tell how the people were not simply gay, but how God put the gay thing into their heads as punishment for no longer worshipping him. Geez.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • patrick

      Rick – write something original that is not a quote.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:01 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.