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. thenbts

    That the owners of these businesses are Christians does not make their businesses religious, else every TV set should be termed religious simply because the shop owner and the manufacturer are Christians. What then would you say of Europe where non Muslims are forced to get a Halal ritual code before they can run their restaurants and this is irrespective of the religion of the owner. But in all you have as well given more Christians a good reason to support these businesses because they are owned by Christians, and at least those who patronize them before may not change from doing so.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  2. Mohammed_Islam

    Dear Isaiah_Christian and M,

    You can say whatever you want to... Al Quran teaches that God created human in different nationality, ethnicity, language so that one can interact with other and then HE gave free will to every single one of the human... and every one of us will be held accountable for the using of this 'free will'.... if HE wanted to make every single human to believe in HIM alone without any association with HIM, HE could have... then where is the test? then there is no need of hell and heavens, no need of good and evil... every one will be a good one... but because of free will we have human doing wrong things to others in terms of preaching them to take them away from worshipping one God and so on... and also no will be accountable for others... its like you are on your own on that day and no counselor/helper... the only helper will be your good deeds that you have done in this earthly life...

    O our Lord, have mercy on us on that day as we all are sinner...

    Anyways, I hope you have read following verse where John wrote:

    John 14:26
    Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
    26 But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything; that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you.

    And so it is mentioned in the quran:

    And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, "O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad." But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, "This is obvious magic." Al Quran 61: 6

    Also if you would like to know what Jesus will be asked by his Creator on that day:

    Al Quran 5:17 And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.
    Al Quran 5:18 I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness.
    Al Quran 5:19 If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

    Now decision/choice is yours dear brothers and sisters in humanity...


    August 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Max

    Can a company be religious?

    August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  4. Jenny Tate

    I ate there for years knowing they were Christiam based and closed on Sundays. I will not eat there now that I know they have donated over 5 mllion to anti-gay groups! That is a huge difference! I wish people would report this story without the people hate Christians spin!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  5. jimbo

    I am disappointed Tom's of Maine is on this list. I do like the toothpaste and mouthwash, but I will buy from a secular company for now on. I'll miss you Tom.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Bob

      As I mentioned earlier in the replies. Tom's of Maine is now owned by Colgate-Palmolive. CNN reporters make lots of mistakes. This is just one of them. Go ahead and buy Tom's. It's all good.

      August 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  6. Ron

    if it is wrong to espouse religious based support, then it is wrong to espouse ANTI-religious based support. Or do you not understand that?

    August 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  7. mb2010a

    There is no such thing as a "religious" company...

    August 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Jew York

    Century 21 is Jewish owned department store in New York/New Jersey where they shovel their religion down in our throats!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Larry Moniz in New Jersey

      Ahh, another racist heard from. I worked in NYC and live in NJ the ONLY Century 21 operation I've ever heard of was the real estate company. Go spread your racist comments in Mississippi where they appear to be popular.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  9. D Hammond

    YAY! Thanks for the free advertising!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  10. mb2010a

    The really funny part is that like Hobby Lobby and Walmart, you would be hard pressed to find anything in their stores that is made in the USA...

    August 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Josh

      Because the USA has a strangle-hold on religion and other countries are not allowed to partake? Or because to claim to follow a religious deity is to only do business in an elitiest way with your fellow country men? I may be wrong but this comment makes no sense in context with this article.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  11. ropers40

    We prefer Churchs Chicken, my daughters were brought up to respect themselves so Forever 21 is out of our pockets.
    Tyson chicken products are to expensive, Toms of Maine is not a know store in our parts, Service Masters are alos extremely expensive as well as their subsidiaries, Herman Miller has a god product but this will make me think twice about buying from them, dont buy interstate batteries due to bad history with their products, In and out what, left Wal/Chi years ago.
    Guess I have already been boycotting without even knowing it.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Ron

      ropers40--if everything is too expensive, maybe you should get a better paying job.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Mrs. A

      ... and your point???....

      August 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  12. NYC

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler (denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders who killed religious people because of their religious cult!
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most atheists are uneducated... No atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are atheists/agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a † nation and will always be. You know it's true and stop being ignorant and arrogant!
    (Take a look at our federal/state holidays, 99% of our presidents, blue laws in parts of the nation, the majority of people, some laws, calendar, culture, etc.)

    Attention: American Christians (being 80% of the population) are stupid and brainwashed for supporting Israel and the Jews when they deny and made the Romans persecute, suffer and kill our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    We give Israel billions of dollars of aid every year from our hardworking tax-payers' money when nearly 50 million Americans live under poverty in this nation, as well as having lots of problems in this nation, such as bad infrastructure, high unemployment rate, billions of dollars in debt, etc.


    American Jews and Israelis do not even like us, spit and make fun on us, as well as bashing our religion. They just want our money and support!! Google and watch Youtube to see what I'm talking about!

    Keep in mind that there are many Palestinians who are Christians....

    ^^ No, this is nowhere near of being Anti-Semitic or Anti-Atheist – I just tell the truth and opinion! ^^

    August 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • robert

      troll much?

      August 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Mrs. A

      You're sooooo right.... YOUR opinion.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Tami

      Um... what part of this is truth? Because, really, it seems like 100% opinion (and BS) to me.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • myslant

      Your post says more adequately your gross ignorance than anything I could ever post here. You have my pity.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • myslant

      Your post reveals more adequately your gross ignorance than anything I could ever post here. You have my pity.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  13. Heather

    So...what is this...a new hit list?

    August 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  14. Jamie Phillips

    Another restaurant that is open in its Christian views is Cook-outs! They show their spiritual support by printing sriptures on their cups and bags as well as playing Christian music throughout the restaurant!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Yes...isn't it annoying.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  15. fatal42

    Who the hell is the Jim Henson Co ???

    August 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • mb2010a


      August 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • ropers40

      Ever heard of the Muppets, his creation

      August 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  16. Luke Brown

    This is a terrible article. Chick-fil-a is not controversial because its owners are religious, or even that they promote religious values in their work place ... it's that they promote discrimination against gays, and claim that it is condoned by Jesus (who never said anything about gays.)

    August 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Chase

      Actually Jesus did mention that marriage is for men and women. Not men and men or women and women. I am in not necessarily against gay marriage but I know what the bible says and it DOES mention that gay marriage is not acceptable.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Mrs. A

      Hi Luke.... guess what? There's a chapter in the bible named Luke.... check it out.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  17. Ray

    Ron, Sorry, i don't buy your premise. Somehow,only the research that backs up our side ( whichever side it happens to be) is deemed to be valid. Are you really trying to say that ,proportionally, we have the same per cent of the worlds population that is gay as we did a hundred or a thousand years ago? I don't think so.So when did the hormones multiply and take over ?
    PS: Like the Chick-fil-a guy, I don't care what you do--just don't tell me I have to agree with it.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  18. i_know_everything

    Forever 21, Tyson and Walmart, very Christian indeed, Jesus just rolled in his grave

    August 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Christian company or not – Jesus is not in His grave. Remember after, when He rose from the grave, appeared to hundreds of witnesses and ascended into Heaven having conquered death? You can read about it in the Bible and know more, but you'll never know everything.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  19. Nicole

    Wow, this is disturbing. Why does it matter? Yikes, CNN.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Rebecca Hoover

      You said it sister!

      August 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  20. Bob

    Tom's of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive since 2006. The Chappell's still own a share of the company but it is largely governed by CP. Mr. Gilgoff is incorrect in to assume Colgate-Palmolive a "religioius" company.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:48 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.