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. smeeker

    Walmart and Tyson – Boy there is an example of how Christians treat their employees. What about the part in the bible that says that a man is worthy of his hire? That means that someone should be paid a good wage for their labor. If they were really good Christians, they would take all that they have and give it to the poor.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bob

      Yes, smeeker. The Waltons and Tysons ought to just fold up business and give all their money to poor old you. Because you worked so hard your whole life to found a company, hiring thousands of employees, and providing food and substinence to millions of poor people at affordable prices. Yes smeeker, you are right. Industrious hard working honest men should receive no rewards in this life. They should just worship the almighty smeeker, who gives away all his money to the poor.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  2. Jeannine - Texas

    This isn't reporting. There's no story or purpose in this article. Are you trying to "shame" these companies into defending themselves for having Christian beliefs? If the person who reported this actually did their job in the first place – research, support as facts, maybe even contact the source – this would have been a non-issue. OR maybe it could have been an objective news story with differing points of view. (Heaven forbid!) But stirring up the pot with sensationalism and negativity, is unfortunately the norm and not the exception with too many news agencies.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • MiamiMikey

      So if they had Muslim beliefs, GLBT beliefs, atheistt beliefs, etc, as long as the christian belief in intolerance is not under attack, you would be rising up with some protest or stop shopping at campaign. Million moms march against JCP was a complete failure!!! Christians are not under attack. Those that would impose their belief system on the rest of us ARE!!! You are just to wrapped up in your faith to understand that the rest of the world does not follow your god!!! Sorry.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Tracey

    You have this all wrong. This is not Gays VS Christians (or any religion- How fox news of CNN to go there) and it is NOT about what a CEO speaks – this is about people protesting a chain because they do not want the money they pay for a sandwich to go to extreme groups who hate GAYS and work very hard to make sure the gay people do not have the same rights as straight people. Period. There are plenty of Christian companies that do NOT donate millions of dollars to anti-gay groups .... and they are NOT being boycotted.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Neil

      You are absolutely right!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    Maybe Chic with all their increased sales should donate some of their proceeds to HIV research or the Philadelphia center...Jesus would .

    August 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  5. edward carter

    Not only those 9 company but a vast number of real men respect the religious order.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  6. Bryon

    Add a yogurt store named Sweet Frog. The F R O G stands for Forever Rely On God and John 3:16 is on their workers T-shirts. Good yogurt.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  7. Hindu

    The new equality - you have equal rights unless you believe in "traditional marriage". We can see where it is going.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  8. David Burris

    The religion of a company or its owner is not the point, it is when Dan Cathy "came out" and publicly proclaimed his position that gays should be deprived of the rights everyone else has, invoked the "wrath of his God" against gays, and it was discovered he was providing millions of dollars to groups working to deprive gays of their rights. That is the point.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Hindu

      @David Burris - In all cases you cited, he was exercising his freedom and liberties. You have rights to express your beliefs in gay marriage and also to fund the groups that support LGBT views & rights. It is that simple. What is the fuss? Can you not agree to disagree - the basic principle of democracy without which this nation would be plunged into a thousand civil wars.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • MiamiMikey

      Hey @hindu. The point is that he is using vast sums of money to define who has rights and who should not! Try going back to the fifties and you can see the so-called christian church in action in the south!!! And by the way, the TEA PARTY traitors to this country are now passing legislation in the RED states to discourage voting by the poor, students, elderly by restricting voting hours, requiring ids and claiming that this is to keep voter fraud down. Hmmm – check Miami News and you'll see how the republicans are making sure absentee ballots go in their favor. The republican party of today is an embarassment to all this great country stands for. To govern is to compromise. The republicans no longer know the meaning of that word.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Rebecca Hoover

      @miamimikey I think the point should be that he's using vast sums of "HIS" money to support a cause the "HE" believes in. It's simple, choose not to eat there and tell your friends. And I'm not sure I see the problem with requiring I.D. at the voting booth, seems pretty sensible to me, not really that hard to obtain an I.D. Also, to be clear, I'm fine with gay marriage, I'm not particularly religious, and would classify my ideology as Independent. Far right, far left-all nuts.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  9. yenn her

    The enemy leaves at the sound of your GREAT NAME!!!JESUS!!!!The whole world will praise your GREAT NAME!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  10. M

    They aren't saying they have specific stance in similar way for all companies though. And we know that Wal-Mart hasn't proven Christian in stance very clearly.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  11. M

    Thank you for the article. Now I know where to take my business. By the way it is their right to be run by their beliefs and not be descriminated if others expect the same. We are founded on religious freedom to not be kept from our faith, not on freedom from faith, but freedom to choose our faith and live it as we believe in without government control or being discriminated against. That is the meaning of separation of church and state.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Tracey

      it is capitalism not discrimination if people choose to purchase goods and services from a company for what ever reason they want. If this company believes they are being discriminated against because people stop buying their sandwiches – that is ridiculous.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. Robert

    well I see it's time to burn the christians at the stake. feed them to the lions. pin them up in there church's and set it on fire. America cannot handle such a great example of moral's any more. to many militant degeneret sodomites out there. and we worry about islam taking over america? if they did. sodomites would only protest in there closents.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Inglourious

      "and we worry about islam taking over america? " Uhmm... rational people have not been worried about that.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  13. Don - Texas

    What a country we live in – we fight to retain our freedom, then, complain when another chooses to displays a freedom of choice. I believe any person and/or organizations' people can believe in whatever they believe, as long as they reciprocate for my beliefs and no one is harmed.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "I believe any person and/or organizations' people can believe in whatever they believe, as long as they reciprocate for my beliefs and no one is harmed."

      The fact hundreds of thousands of experts have shown that being gay is NOT a mental illness, it's not a choice and it can't be voluntarily changed, it's ok for prejudice people to try and block their civil rights and spew their ignorant hatred toward this minority group. So when you go to get married lets deny you all of these rights.

      Tax Benefits
      -–Filing joint income tax returns with the I R S and state taxing authorities.
      -–Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.
      Estate Planning Benefits
      -–Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
      -–Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
      -–Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
      -–Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse – that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse's behalf.
      Government Benefits
      -–Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
      -–Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
      -–Receiving public assistance benefits.
      -–Employment Benefits
      -–Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
      -–Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
      -–Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
      -–Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse's close relatives dies.
      Medical Benefits
      -–Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
      -–Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
      Death Benefits
      -–Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
      -–Making burial or other final arrangements.
      Family Benefits
      -–Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
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      -–Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
      -–Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.
      Housing Benefits
      -–Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
      -–Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.
      Consumer Benefits
      -–Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
      -–Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
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      -–Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
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      -–Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
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      -–Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
      -–Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Patti

      yeahright, excellent response!!!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  14. Flymeinthemix

    Why does it matter? I mean Really? Should everyone that is a non christian be biased because of their beliefs? Tell me how this is any better than sending Jews to Concentration camp because of their beliefs?

    August 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  15. SO WHAT

    Jesus never preached hate, he always preached love. If you don't want to live in a country that practices free will then move out!!! you talk about Christians pushing our faith down your throat, what about you? everyone is suppose to believe in what you believe RIGHT?? Give me a break, if you don't believe in God that's your decision, I am not here to judge you but why judge me? You call us hypocrites, you should look in the mirror, so what they don't believe gay's should marry SOOO WHAT, They have the best chicken sandwiches around. And should Christians boycott companies who do support gay marriage? No we don't do that, is it fare that you can have a gay pride parade, why can't we have a Christian parade, I will tell you why, because you people are the haters, the ones who would come down and hurt people and SHOVE you're beliefs down our throats. That is all.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Yup

      Thanks for saying what many of us have thought for a long time now.... I see more hate on this website than any other... and most of it is against Christians...

      August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Patti

      I am one of "those people." You have it backwards. You are trying to SHOVE your religious beliefs down our throats. You are using religion to keep ALL PEOPLE from having EQUAL CIVIL RIGHTS. That is all.

      ps there in NO historical evidence a real person named Jesus ever existed and NO WRITINGS about him in his supposed lifetime.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Yup

      you are wrong Patti, Roman Historian Josephus wrote about Jesus in his writings. He lived in the 1st century. The same time when many who saw Jesus were still alive. There is more evidence of Jesus' existence than any other historical figure from that time, yet people don't question their existence. Some of the dead see scrolls date back to within one generation after Jesus died, and those texts show little if no difference from the current bible we read today. don't just believe what someone says, do the research...

      August 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Why_Bother

      Christians have murdered more people in the history of the world than any other religion or group. We should fear Christianity not praise it.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Patti

      Look it up. Josephus was born in 37 AD. That's 37 YEARS AFTER Jesus' supposedly died. So even if Josephus started writing as a teenager it would have been 50 YEARS AFTER Jesus' supposed death. Opps, history says you're wrong, yup.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Yup

      Jesus dies around 37 AD, he was born around 4 AD. Many people who saw and knew Jesus lived past 70 AD, which is when Rome destroyed the Jewish temple. So your saying that the accounts the Josephus received from witnesses of that time were all lying?
      Also, more people were killed by Atheist in recent history than the Christians ever killed in ancient history. People like Hitler, Pol Pot, Chairman Moa, Stalin, and other killed millions trying to wipe out religion in their countries. In ancient history millions of Christians were killed by the Romans simply for being Christian. throughout history Christians have been one of the most persecuted groups, and today it still happens... many have been killed in Egypt recently and in Sudan for being Christian. North Korea hold thousands in prisons simply because they were found with a bible.
      We want to simply be able to believe what we want without being told we are haters or bigots or that we have to accept ideas about marriage when the bible clearly says those ideas are wrong. I don't want to force anyone to believe what I do, but I also don't want someone to tell me that I have to agree to or support what they believe, either through my taxes or elections. Chick-Fil-A has a right to believe what they want and you have a right not to go there... that's what freedom of religion is about.. but you don't have the right to persecute those who do not believe like you do...

      August 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  16. Chris

    thank you for the article, now i know where not to take my business.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Hindu

      And the Christians and other people of faith know where to take their business.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  17. crystal

    Thirty-One is a very religious company too. Based off of the thirty first proverb.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  18. ladyofargonne

    I have worked in both factories and churches. Finding out that Tyson actually cares about their employees compels me to buy their products more.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • ladyofargonne

      BTW I'm Jewish.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  19. Hindu

    Agreeing to disagree is not disrespect - but the underpin of democracy. But bullying those you disagree with using govt/state power and media power is utter disrespect and intolerance.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  20. PeteH

    If CNN is failing to do its job by inaccurately identifying people's religious beliefs (Editor's Note) then they need to print the retraction ABOVE the article, not below it, and in a larger font. Seriously, this cheap, slipshod, throw-away reporting is becoming all to common on this and many other sites. The misreporting of the healthcare ruling was the most shameless act of negligent journalism I have witnessed in my entire life.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • mb2010a

      FOX News...

      August 1, 2012 at 5:03 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.