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. POed Amircan

    I will shop at these stores. We do not need to condone something that is wrong it is how I was taught. I know that liberals as a majority are all mouth with no backbone. What happens when all of our morals are stripped from us. I do not need the government or media to tell me how to live my life, I spent over ten years in the active military I joined when it was an honor to serve and as soldiers we did not have to follow bureaucratic system of rules that are in place now we had something the liberals will never have honor and morality. I have met CNN's reporters they by my definition are trash as are their bosses. Maybe that is not very Christian but there is my fighting side oh yeah in the over ten years I was in the military in combat arms (the actual people who do the majority of the fighting less than 10 % of the army) I met 0 gays and very few liberals and by the end of the tours they served most if not all had changed their tune.

    August 1, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " I do not need the government telling me how to live my life. " Yet you clearly have no problem with legislation ( the government ) telling gay people how to live theirs. Nice.

      August 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  2. Cristy

    What would jesus do? He would sit down and eat with all disbeliever's, he teaches love not hate......

    August 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Grammar

      He clearly doesn't teach capitalization, ellipsis or apostrophe rules.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  3. cheap jordan outlet

    It is really a nice and helpful piece of information. I'm glad that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

    August 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  4. John

    In this economy, I'll go along with whatever religion it takes to not get fired. Because job security is my religion.

    August 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  5. Teresa

    I don't mind the personal religious beliefs of company founders, or even the religious tone set for their business. The difference with Chik-fil-a: if I found out that the retailers I patronized were directing their profits toward organizations that oppose my values, I would stop spending there. I have many options for chicken sandwiches, frozen foods, skimpy clothes, et al. I do not need to give money to companies who will hand it over to my political/personal/moral opposition.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  6. wharfrat

    The thing with In & Out is that they are very discreet about it. I had heard this story for years and had doubts as I had seen no evidence of it. Then I read about where this stuff was. Like on the bottom of the drink cups. Who looks there?

    Also owners don't take public positions like Chick-Fil-A.

    I won't eat at Chick-Fil-A. I love In & Out Burger. BTW, I'm an atheist.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  7. Joy

    Have you lost your mind CNN? I have never replied to anything here, but shame on you for calling Walmart a Christian company. How could you say that with the way Walmart treats its employees? I am a Christian and I have boycotted Walmart for over 5 years now. Ever read the Bible??? You can't serve God and Money! Walmart gets paid money when its low level employees die and none of that money goes to families. Not to mention the dirt pay.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  8. Jack

    Forever 21 is known for its suacier and skimpier woman's offerings but it exudes a subtle piety. WHAT!? A subtle piety? It is a serious sin before God to encourage men or women to wear skimpy and saucy "outfits" that offend God! Forever 21 is NOT serving God! They are hypocrites...Walmart sells tons of goods produced at least in part by slave laborers in China's gulag...It's all about the buck for the Walton's, "good Christians" though they be. The U.S. is sinking in filth and "good" companies like Forever 21 are helping it drown, their biblical notations not withstanding...What a lousy article!

    August 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  9. Desi

    Thank you Sarah. The loving Christians need to start speaking louder than the hateful Christians.
    I am confused by CNN's point with this Article.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  10. Cheryl

    Thank you so much for the list. If you find anymore please list them. I will do all my shopping at these companies.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Joy

      Have you lost your mind CNN? I have never replied to anything here, but shame on you for calling Walmart a Christian company. How could you say that with the way Walmart treats its employees? I am a Christian and I have boycotted Walmart for over 5 years now. Ever read the Bible??? You can't serve God and Money!

      August 1, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Jane

      And I will discontinue my shopping at these companies.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  11. Tribulation

    What is the problem here. CNN doesn't like religion so they're going to slam them at every turn. John 3:16 isn't just an evangelical verse you idiots. It's "the" Christian verse."For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not parish but have ever lasting life." Whybarent you spamming muslims, they kill innocent people in the name of their faith. Or Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist! Most of us are fed up with the liberal media spreading propaganda instead of reporting real news that hurts their czar in the white house. CNN is off my list of info sources and their sponsors are off list of necessary purchases. Let a few hundred thousand of us do that and see where CNN is down the road. Boycott liberal propaganda news!!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Wilburt

      ...I see why your name is tribulation, you should and lying racist as well...There are a lot of us Christian Liberals, just as there are sinning Republicans...smh!

      August 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • illmatar

      Radical Islam has a lot of killing to do in the name of Allah to catch up with the number of murders done in the name of Jesus. That's fact. Christianity is the most murderous religion of all time. All members of the human race have the potential for great evil or good, regardless of faith or heritage. I'm sure it is very comforting to tell yourself that you are somehow different from the nameless "them," but you are not. Bigotry will not save you from being a destroyer. Bigotry makes you a destroyer.

      It is riskier and certainly requires more effort to evaluate people as individuals. You have to, ya know...think. Observe. Think some more...before you make judgements. Lots of work...and an eensy weensie little risk you might actually encounter someone truly evil. Very scary. Still, I would rather take the risk than be the one treating everyone "different" from myself badly because I assume they are guilty. I would rather meet evil than be evil.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  12. Andrew Wiggin

    A Great Rabbi stands, teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife's adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death.

    The Rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. 'Is there any man here,' he says to them, 'who has not desired another man's wife, another woman's husband?'
    They murmur and say, 'We all know the desire, but Rabbi none of us has acted on it.'

    The Rabbi says, 'Then kneel down and give thanks that God has made you strong.' He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, 'Tell the Lord Magistrate who saved his mistress, then he'll know I am his loyal servant.'

    So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

    Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, 'Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.'

    The people are abashed and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. ‘Someday,’ they think, ‘I may be like this woman. And I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.’

    As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head and throws it straight down with all his might it crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. ‘Nor am I without sins,’ he says to the people, ‘but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead – and our city with it.’

    So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

    The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis and when they veer too far they die.

    Only one Rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation.

    So of course, we killed him.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • mmmiller85

      Thank you

      August 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  13. Hippy Chk

    Thank you Chk Fila for giving people the courage to throw political correct thought out the window when being forced by our government to bow down to The Gay Agenda. It takes real guts to stand up to a brain washed world and say "ENOUGH". My hat's off to ya.

    August 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Bob

      Brainwashed world...?

      You realize what...brainwashed means, correct?

      August 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Jeff Fox

      I believe, all though I could be wrong, that one of Jesus's teachings was" Love one another".....I don't believe he said "Love one another unless you are gay" !

      August 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  14. JJ

    um.....since my former post (the kind & gentler version) wasn't posted-NEWS flash CNN!!! :
    GOTTA LOVE IT WHEN AMERICANS STAND FOR WHAT AMERICA STANDS FOR!!-lines doubled around Chic-Fil-A & can't get in the door! Will prob go back tomorrow AND friday 🙂

    August 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  15. seenoland54

    Thanks for the list, these will be the companies I will do business with. I will not spend a dime on business or pleasure in the ciries that bashed Chick-filet

    August 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  16. Chris

    Love... Why do we all have to fight and argue this. Is there not one person here that stands for atleast something? If not, throw your stones. But everyone else, find a better fight and make a difference for something good.

    August 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  17. Ben

    Trijicon. Manufactures scopes for firearms. They put bible verses in the serial numbers of all scopes sold to private individuals and caused a fiasco when they were found on military scopes.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  18. Sarah

    Christian/religion based != Anti-gay. Any of them could be just as open minded about people as a non-religious person; you can't just assume because a company has a religious background that they are automatically able to be grouped in with Chik-fil-a. That's just my opinion, though.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • CAWL

      You are so right Sarah.
      This blog only tries to pit the fundies against those of us who have decided to boycott CFA.... the truth is.... we aren't anti Christianity, we're against the funding of hate groups, which is what CFA does with its money.

      August 1, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  19. thenbts

    Reblogged this on The nbts's Ogbomoso Blog and commented:
    Will a business be termed RELIGIOUS simply because the owners are Christians, or does naming a business after a saint does it make it a clean business? Your views pls

    August 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  20. Dan

    Does anyone else here find it humorous that a self proclaimed christian company calls itself "In-and-Out-Burger"? Get it. Giving her burger the old in and out.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:46 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.