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. Ugh_cough_coufh

    Wal-Mart a "business threat to Christian book stores?" Wal-Mart has long been a threat to most any and all stores, because most all its products are marked well below what people often pay in regular retail stores. And if theirs' is not cheaper they'll matach the product to the price you quote of another store.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Montroseres

    I thought Volunteers of America is a devoutly religious organization too? I don't see it on the list.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  3. boocat

    I don't support FASCISM....ergo I will not partake in any of these companies products.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • JG

      I bet you smell like patchouli....

      August 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. Wootings

    Handy of CNN to provide a list of companies so wildly disconnected from reality so that we can all avoid doing business with them.

    Shame about In-n-Out though. That's the only one on the list that I'll miss.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  5. Tom

    Another shameless ploy by CNN to inflame (simply to generate hits) instead of enlighten. But so be it. I'll happily do my best to support the companies on the list.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Me

    Morals are worth more than money.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  7. revbates

    I Funny how faith is important to these business people, but most of them pay low-wages and few benefits to their employees while becoming rich themselves. The owners of Chick-fil-A are billionaires and so are the Wal-Mart clan, but their employees need food-stamps and government assistance to support themselves and their families.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  8. Mike

    Gary – Please run for President.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Joe Schmoe

    Religion doesn't belong in the public sphere, whether it's the work place or politics. It should be a private matter best left to the home rather than a public display intended to convert others.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • JG

      Amen. Same goes for gays......

      August 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Tom

      If you live your life according to the principles in which you believe, you simply can not keep your private belief separate from your public existence. Ain't gonna happen. It guides and inhabits all that you say and do, including your relationships with others.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  10. drinker75

    In my experience, as soon as a company says it's christian owned, a lot of them seem to think it's a license to screw people over. When I see that, I run the other way.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • JG

      Maybe you should lay off the sauce.......

      August 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • drinker75

      Going out of your way to say you're a good person usually means otherwise.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  11. Me

    I'm glad there are companies that will stand up for what is right...I mean "right". The idea of relativism and the fear of offending someone has destroyed so much in our nation and world, and the fact that a company would stand up and protest things that are wrong makes me proud to shop there. There is absolute truth, absolute right, absolute wrong, and only one truth, no matter what people think or want to believe, and in the end, it will be known by everyone at Judgment Day. It's pathetic how our culture has made it so everything is acceptable and needs to be respected and "ok", for fear of not letting someone be who they want to be and hurting their feelings. God loves everyone, but the sin in this world will not be accepted by him...that's why he sent Christ.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  12. POWMIA

    What is the point of this article? It seems that CNN.com is actively trying to "expose" companies with Christian backgrounds in an effort to incite those who are protesting against Chick-fil-a to protest or boycott other Christian owned companies. None of the companies on this list recently prompted any controversies related to their Christian leaning (not that "controversy" is necessarily the proper way to describe what Chick-fil-a's CEO did....after all, he didn't discriminate against anybody). If CNN doesn't watch it, Christians will stop reading its website. They presumably represent a very significant proportion of CNN's total readership, so I'm confused about why it would be so willing to offend Christians with rubbish like this article. I understand that it doesn't say much negative about the companies, but the timing of its release coincides with the "Chick-fil-a" protest day and is a thinly veiled attempt to lump more Christian companies into the mix with Chick-fil-a (likely in an effort to direct some of the outrage toward others in addition to Chick-fil-a).

    August 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  13. bobbi85710

    Reblogged this on Eyes In The Northwest and commented:
    Support Chick-fil-A today at your ( http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Locations/Locator ) local restaurant or make an on-line purchase ( http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Cows/Merchandise ). I never watch CNN, but once every year or so they blog something like this, that is newsworthy!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  14. GetReal

    I don't care what these companies believe, as long as they don't spread hate in the process. How many wars have been fought in the name of religion? How many rights must be denied and people be marginalized in the name of religion?

    "I love Jesus. It's some of his followers I'm not so crazy about."

    August 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  15. JG

    Please tell us what companies support the gay agenda so we can boycot them.......

    August 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Those boycotts are already happening.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  16. Alishan

    Actually Herman Miller provides benefits for domestic partnerships and has for years now. Regardless of what they were founded on, they no longer support discrimination and hate.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  17. HM

    Appreciate the list! These I will go out of my way to show support.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  18. dexdan2

    I do not mind a Christian company, so long as they truly act in the Christian manor they purport to uphold. In-N-Out Burger, for one, pays its employees well and provides a quality product. Tom's of Main prides itself in its stewardship of the environment,and Hermann Miller contributes to many charities. As for the others, several are the worst companies for which to work; many treat their customers horribly and/or try to rip them off wherever possible. Those are the ones that make my skin crawl. Stamping John 3:16 all over your packaging and tawdry goods and services does NOT make you a decent human being, and most certainly doesn't make up for not acting in a "Christian" manner in yourr business dealings.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  19. Romans1

    What a novel idea it would be to publish a list of companies that support muslim faith issues.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  20. Vlad T

    What about other organizations? Greystone Bakery and Mandala in Yonkers is run and set up to fulfill Buddhist injunctions while providing social help and community development for poor, homeless, and addicted individuals. Surely there are others as well.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:17 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.