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. H-Town, TX

    @ doh
    Right, because marrying a consenting adult of the same se-x is almost like marrying multiple underage relatives. You, sir, win the Most Inane Comment medal for this page!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  2. K

    I guess I won't find Anton Lavey's, Satanic Bible at Walmart eh??

    August 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  3. Reality

    These companies don't take a dump on their customer's beliefs like Chick-Filler does. There is a difference between being religious, and being a crazy zealot.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  4. Fake

    I know 9 companies that I won't shop at anymore.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • S

      Yep. Although, isn't Wal Mart of the devil?

      August 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  5. Priest

    Here we go again, just because someone does not agree with the gay lifestyle does not mean that they "hate"! Understand that it is the gay proponents who twist this into a "hate" issue and are the ones who issue "hate" words at everybody on the other side of this matter. So again, who's the real "haters"?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • midwest rail

      When gay people seek to codify YOUR moral behavior, then you can cry persecution. Yet you have no problem codifying THEIR moral behavior, do you ? Hypocrite.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Priest

      You just proved my point! Thank you!!

      August 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • midwest rail

      That is the most absurd response you could have posted, as I did nothing of the sort. Try again.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Priest

      I don't claim to be holier than thou, never have never will. But what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong. Be prepared when the end comes and deal with it.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You are free to consider gay relationships wrong for as long as you like. Attempting to codify that relationship thru civil legislation is wrong. America is NOT a theocracy.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  6. Alongtheway

    Most say one thing and do another. What's the point here? If someone dies...or lives...the good ole catch-alls can be used too "It was meant to be..." or "It was in God's plan...". Bah..humbug. I know some very religious people and others that aren't. Every one of them is racist (heard it from alllll walks of life, by the way - not just one-sided. Unfortunately). on one level or another. Selfish. Break what commandments their religions regimine. Say a few prays (or not) and call it all good. Won't impress me with a quickly jotted down or churned out saying or hip new phrase (WWJD, John 3:16 on garment bags... etc etc etc). Or acting suddenly reiligious in the wake of a crisis - like soooo many saw in the aftermath of such a terrible thing as the theatre shooting.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  7. Rob Killian

    This is not about faith or religion. This is about hatred, prejudice, and discrimination. PERIOD. No one wants to tell these believers that their faith is misplaced. But, when their beliefs lead to hatred, prejudice, violence and inequality that is where the thinking man's boundaries must lie. No to public discrimination, hatred, mis-truths and lies. No believer should be allowed to belittle or destroy the life of someone else.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      You are absolutely correct!

      This is NOT about any RELIGION or any alleged RELIGIOUS FREEDOM... it is all about HATRED, INTOLERANCE, PREJUDICE, and DISCRIMINATION...

      I, personally, only contribute my $$$ to the building of huge coliseums and the raising of rapacious lions…

      Oh, for the good old days of real human sport…

      August 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ken

      Why is it "hate" to disagree? I love my gay friends and neighbors and while I support equal legal rights through recognized domestic partnerships I think marriage is a religious ceremony and that faith traditions should be able to define what they believe marriage to be without being labled "haters" and discriminatory. Chick fill a welcomes all into their store and employs many gay people without any discrimination whatsoever. Wh

      August 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  8. bkgscheiderer

    Thanks for the list - I will make sure to support all those businesses.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  9. lhmlhm44

    Forever 21 – are you serious? All the hoochie outfits they sell... SMH

    August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • S

      exactly what i have come to expect from christians, 99% of them are fake hypocrites

      August 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  10. David

    Great. Now tell us which of these companies actively funds oppression against segments of the population it doesn't like.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  11. NickZadick

    Americans sure love their big book of fairy tales ... seems like we are stuck with brain dead followers of myths for some time to come...oh well...one day, humanity may evolve beyond the bronze age...

    August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  12. PLEASE


    August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  13. dave

    does not the bible read like a fairy tale – giants, monsters, space ships , zombies....

    August 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • gary

      Yep .. it can read anyway you want .. you just have to "interpret" .. you could probably interpret Bigfoot in the ... look in Job

      August 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tom

      The Bible would take on an entirely new meaning for you if you understood its historical context. It's arranged roughly in chronological order, covers a time span of 1000's of years, comprised of writings from dozens of different authors (few of whom actually knew each other) yet whose writings all contained a common thread. The Bible as it exists today did not come together all at once. The earliest texts are part of the ancient Jewish bible. The later texts (many of which were written 30 to 40 years after Christ's death) were actually included as late as a couple hundred years later. Learn the historical context, learn what the writers were trying to say and why, and then see if you think it's a fairy tale.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  14. REALLY?

    ServiceMaster, aka $MAC? I got $macked alright. These guys charge people with excellent credit scores 18% interest on their loans & operate de facto as a third party. I am usually a very informed consumer but got duped when I thought I was financing an expensive service directly w/Terminix only to find out this psuedo-3rd party owned the loan. Bad move. Christian companies are NO more ethical than any other business; don't confuse "ethical" with "moral".

    August 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  15. gary

    from a US Marine .. no one needs assult riffles

    August 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  16. Chuckbilly

    People should be more greatful of God – If it wasn't for God, we wouldn't have learned gravity. Can you just imagine – we could have just floated off into space – if not for that correction in beliefs.

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

      HAHA WHAT?! You think just because we "learned" gravity it was "created"? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. So, do you think before we "learned" it, we were floating around in space? What the hell does a belief in God have to do with finding gravity? What a ridiculous statement.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  17. gary

    This will all get worked out I'm sure. Money talks and when people aren't shopping because of hateful opinions .. well the store will back track. The people running the mouths with Bible verses will die off and along with them the hate. Their kids will still have hate, but that's the thing we should remember, it will be watered down a little. Man made God(s) and man made the Bible. The “interpreted it” several upon several times over. The people in questions will not change. However, death comes to everyone and to everyone a new beginning ... don't pass on hate no matter what side you're on .. it will do you good in the long run. However, don’t take crap from anyone

    August 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  18. david


    So Marriott Hotels all carry a Book of Mormon even though guests stay there from the spectrum of spiritual faiths. I don't think too many guests, read that book, go on a 2-year mission, purchase magic underwear, and live the rest of their lives believing they'll end up on their own celestial planet one day. Oh, and the male Mormons will actually have all their wives join them on their celestial planet.

    Enough already with these silly articles – every organization has a right to its own belief system.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  19. Patrish

    Thanks for the information since I am anti-religious I would like to shop accordingly. Unfortunately, I save a lot of money at Wal-Mart, and as senior on limited income, I can't be as choosy as I like. Damn, I was ready to boycott the whole list!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  20. patrick

    When I think Wall-mart, I think of firearms, not Christianity.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • H-Town, TX

      Well in the US there is nothing more Christian than ignorance, intolerance, and guns. Live it up!

      August 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Howie

      same thing aren't they?

      August 1, 2012 at 1:07 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.