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. Bill

    Next time you bring back a defective Interstate battery for a warrantee claim, let's see just how "christian" they really are! LOL

    August 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  2. sck

    I am apparently missing the connection for several companies between loving Jesus and inhumanely raising and then killing God's creation.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Rajend

      God said to have dominion over all things he has created and has given permission to kill and eat. I guess some people still need bible study class.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

      God's people need to eat too.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  3. RAWoD

    I am surprised that there was not a Bologna seller on the list.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Adam


      August 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  4. PraiseTheLard

    What about Dummy-Nose Pizza?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      And let's not forget about the Boy Scouts...

      August 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

    "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."


    August 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • liz48

      Thomas Jefferson also had his own bible where he cut out the miracles of Jesus and retained the logical portions as he felt that would be a better political platform...

      Hardly a follower of the Lord, as the Bible tells us to reject those who deny the Power of the Message of Jesus.

      Right wingers should kick this guy out as a "founding father" who supported the Bible!

      August 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • joshmertz

      Yea, to keep the government out of religious affairs, not necessarily the other way around. How about you read the whole Danbury letter?

      August 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • ImIrish

      Do you mean the same Thomas Jefferson who owned slaves?!

      August 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • BigDog

      What about before ......

      August 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  6. scoto

    Apart from Walmart dont shop at any of them. Never will either

    August 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • bzarr

      I quit shopping a walmart over 20 years ago. Just couldn't condone the way they treated their employees.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  7. PraiseTheLard

    Nice to see that it doesn't require intelligence in order to run a successful company...

    August 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Art

      PraiseTheLard....it's even nicer to see that it's not required for (nor present in) your posts here.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • bill

      These are well meaning people and very religious. The only problem here is that sooner or later a family member will be born gay.If you are a loving parent you cannot turn your back on them. Our kids did not ask to be brought on this earth we produced them.Lots of kids are born with many defects, we do not send them away but somehow a gay child is like leprosy.. I did not have much respect on Dick Cheney but seeing how he stood up for his daughter he gained my admiration. I am a father of a gay man, he never admitted it to me, from my end I told him it made no difference to me. The fear that have by every day and every hour is that he will be beat up or worst killed my some fanatic. I urge good meaning people not to promote violence for something that is not well understood.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  8. georgex

    The employees don't have to believe in God in order to be good people.
    Selling Christians books can make money, too.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  9. judeamorris

    It's not that Chick-Fil-A has religious values and honors them. It's the fact that Chick-Fil-A funds millions of dollars in profit to what are basically hate groups. Honor your religiou values. Live a good life and run a business in the same way; but do NOT fund hate and bigotry against groups of people. That behavior was supposedly eradicated with the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • liz48

      If people who honor G-d would be more mindful of where they spend their money, bank and invest, this issue of large companies supporting values they do not support would have been a non-issue. 98% are supporting many of these companies- if they withdraw their business, then these companies will either change their value systems or go out of business. I moved my banking business to a smaller bank that is not listed as against DOMA...

      August 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  10. PAUL


    August 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  11. palintwit

    If I was Sarah or Bristol Palin, I'd drive around the neighborhood until I found someone running a wood chipper. Then I would jump in. And then the world would be a better place. Simple.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • whatever


      August 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      By gully, that's suicide!

      August 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  12. CoNative

    I find it amusing how this story has gotten twisted into a protest against "faith-based" companies. The problem arose with Chic-fil-A when word got out about anti-gay, anti-gay-marriage comments and possible discrimination. How easily, and quickly, the corporations and media spin that spin that they do!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • adw

      Listen to his comments again. he as not antii-gay or anti gay marriage but was merely pro traditional marriage. They hire and serve people of whatever belief. To coempare to civil rigts is not corect. The blacks were discriminated against. They could not go in places, sit at certain seats, etc. CFA owner is stating his personal belief but he is not blocking anyone in his places, they dont hve to ordr a different line, wtc. Go in there and see if they ask you what your beleifs are and then seat/serve you less because you disagree with owner. the only place they will discrimainat against you is all \days are same, tehy will not serve you (or anyone else) on Sunday, so it is discrimiantion against everyone which makes it not discrimination.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • liz48

      Who cares? stop supporting the gay-loving companies and banks and make a difference!

      August 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  13. saganhill

    Walmart? Proves that the bible is NOT a source of ethics.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  14. Ben

    Why is it not as much a story that the Jim Henson company regularly blacklists companies just because they have religious owners or high profile employees? So, speaking out against Gay marriage, which is a contentious issue right now is workse than blacklisting someone for their use of free speach?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Doug from Seattle

      Ben, it is one thing to have your own personal value system and beliefs, it is something completely different when you choose to take the money derived from your commercial enterprise to espouse and promote these beliefs in a political arena! This country is not a Christian theocracy and I would fight to the death to keep it from becoming one! I have no problem with people taking advantage of their religious freedom in this country, but I have just as much of a right not to have your religious values imposed on me!!!

      August 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • adw

      Doug, what do you do with the money you dget from teh organization you work for. You use it to pay your internet and power bil and have just used that money you deprived from a business to espouse your personal beliefs. How can you do that when you just stated taht is what Cathey did wrong.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  15. zaglossus

    Tyson's where they torture chickens and flush their guano into the watershed.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  16. Scholar

    Walmart – right – believe in the Old Testament ownership of slaves.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • davidk

      And don't forget....religion was invented by the rich to keep the poor from murdering the rich.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Lynn Mann

      I can't believe that Walmart was named as top 'anything good' list !!!!!!!! Now I can't even see this article as worthy.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Hindu

    Now we know the true face of LGBT groups - intolerant totalitarianism. All freedom & liberties to us; but none to others who disagree with us. So much for equality! No dissent tolerated. We will use political clout to bully you into agreeing with us. Thanks Chick-Fil-A for exposing this!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Jim R

      you need to bone up on the difference between secular and religious totalitarianism. There is none. Both are equally evil.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  18. Mike S

    CNN, got news? If yes, please share. Thanks

    August 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  19. Papasan

    Hey Forever 21 and all other believers. John 3:16 ? what about Luke 3:38? What about Genesis 6:2-4? What about Job 1:6 & Job 2:1, Job 38:6-7 and John 1:12. When you right a fictional book, it helps to keep the story line and the characters straight.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • gf

      Right = write

      August 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  20. DrJStrangepork

    The better question... if a company's profit margin doesn't allow it to uphold it's christian beliefs then how long will those beliefs be held on to? By simple virtue of claiming christian/whatever values, companies like chik-fil-a have a built in customer base. If they can trade those values out to get more money most would. So what is more important? Money or Faith?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • liz48

      This is how you weed out the "christians" who worship the god of mammon (materialism) and those who worship G-d and trust Him to provide for them and bring them success...I have lived the latter; and it is a wonderful life, without stress and filled with Peace and deep Joy! You have to make deliberate choices not to live for others and live the things everyone else is into, and be obedient to the Lord and His Voice...I for example, do not have a facebook account...sensed it was not G-d and never regretted getting into that time consuming, insincere platform. The people behind it are not G-dly and their spirit influences the product they sell...

      August 1, 2012 at 2:13 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.