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. Todd

    There are two ways you can approach religion. Inclusive or Exclusive. Many of these companies are rather inclusive, they are trying to bring people together. If they don't believe in the same faith, it doesn't sound like (from this article) that they are actively trying to exclude any group of people, but apply what they feel is right to their business (You know Business Ethics).

    Chick-fil-a on the other hand is pushing exclusionary religion. Where they are saying this group of people are bad and wrong, and we will pay groups who will try to make their lives miserable.

    August 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  2. hokieduck

    Thanks for the list. I will now know who not to give my money to.

    August 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  3. Cait

    I hear hate on both sides, so one is no better than the other. Why can't one side just say: I don't agree with your politics, but respect and tolerate your beliefs? And the other side excepts and moves on. This can be applied to either side of the debate. Chic-fil-a wasn't speaking hate, just disagreement. Move on.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Maxwell

      It isn't just about belief. One side is preventing the other from doing something. To say that we should all just get along is a scape goat, because those who oppose gay marriage don't just have an opinion but want to prevent gay people form getting married. Gay people aren't preventing opponents from holding certain beliefs, but disagree that those people should enact laws that prevent gay people from doing something straight people are allowed to. Do you understand why that would make people upset?

      August 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Cait

      Maxwell, there are entire cities stating they will bar Chic-fil-a from establishing business there. What of that then? Sounds like a stalemate to me.

      August 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Scrap

      I agree with you. Christians aren't the only ppl with the ability to vote. There other religions & non religious ppl that are oppose to gay marriage. It's a stance one person took. Not every Christian feels that way. I love how the so called open minded ppl are generalizing ppl. LOL. Plus LOL @ CNN for singling out one religious group. Good job. Classy.

      August 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  4. the voice of reason

    The jesus crazies are out in full force.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  5. mc

    Trijicon – A Michigan company...

    Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the U.S. military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

    The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

    U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents...


    August 3, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  6. LisaTaj GetEQUAL NM

    What's interesting is that I haven't seen one news outlet get it right. We aren't angry that CFA and its leadership is openly religious. You see, this is NOT about free speech. This is NOT about religion. This is NOT about opinions. This is NOT even about chikin or smooching.

    This is about using money spent at CFA to systematically fund hate groups, some of them being CERTIFIED HATE GROUPS per the Southern Poverty Law Center, to aggressively pursue the oppression, demonization and even "exportation" of an entire sector of American citizens because they are LGBTQ.

    This is about the company's discriminatory screening process for carefully selecting and rejecting franchise operators and employees based on whether they are sympathetic to CFA's religious views.

    AND this is about making sure everyone who spends money there is aware of the dangerous, hateful and even deadly rhetoric and "activism" they are financially backing with every waffle fry they eat. Because CFA may not HIRE or even respect the human lives of people who disagree with them, but they WILL take their money.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  7. Joe



    August 3, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  8. JoAnne

    Forever 21 a CHRISTIAN store???? Really???? They don't allow parents in the dressing rooms with their teenage daughters. Why do you think that is??? And they do not allow returns either. Only exchanges. This is a capitalist monster praying on the billion dollar teenage market.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  9. Name*pinky.

    For many,many. Year's now.We" I am speaking as a man. As, nature intended that I should be". Have had to contend with this nonsence of gay rights being violated because someone disagree's with your agenda to take over the world. Give it a rest Brain. And just let pinky' be the mouse that nature intended him to be. Filled with a lot of stright lady mice. To compleate him.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  10. mountaindawg

    Wal-Mart a faithy company? Really. Maybe when Sam was alive and all the products were made in the USA, providing a living for the people who made the products. Now, everything is made in China by people who are living 10 to a room in some huge factory complex. Employees at Wal-Mart get no health insurance and are forced to take government assistance because of the low wages paid by WM. Yea, real faithy. Faithy to Satan.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  11. onecell

    i am pretty sure the antichrist runs walmart.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  12. rdowden

    Religion was created to control and manage the masses. Period.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Raymond T O'Donnell

      I hope religion would control the world morals.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  13. kip miller

    All this nonsense about Chick Filet on the radio made me hungry. So I bought a 4 piece for lunch. I usually don't get fast food. It was awesome though! I definitely recommend it no matter what side of the pointless debate you are on. Make sure to get the honey mustard sauce because that was good too.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Mark Taylor

      wise man. I'm sick of all this gay chicken talk. Let's eat!

      August 3, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  14. Nancy

    I'll make sure to buy from them each chance i get.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Lisa

      I am "SO" with you Nancy! Speaking for myself – I don't resent people for being who and/or "what" they are but I resent them MORE for inflicting THEIR beliefs on a successful company that has merely excercised it's "freedom of speech AND religion" and is proud of it's FAMILY values! Keep your "kiss-in" day to YOURSELVES!!! I am so VERY sorry I have to live in a world where I have to explain such "differences" to my children! Life is confusing enough as it is! I firmly believe in the creation of Adam and Eve - YES - God created Adam and Steve too (AND loves them. . . . but their story WAS NOT told in the Bible!)

      August 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  15. What???

    Thanks cnn you just gave me a few more companys I can support! Thanks for the info.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  16. Brad Ashtari

    Glad to know I'm not buying from any of these companies. Stop holding back progress and poisoning the world with your imaginary friend(s).

    August 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  17. faye

    Tyson is a muslim company!

    August 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm |

    thanks for the info, i assume it was intended as a hatchet job.

    August 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Rachel

    GO GOD! We love you and the companies that honor you! Glory to the Highest and praise to the King of Kings, Jesus, the Christ!

    August 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Peter

      Rachel, come out of your dark, dank, closed curtained house and let the sun shine in, I can only hope that when you need first responderrs like firemen, policemen and even doctors and nurses that they decide not to help you. May Satan have mercy on your filthy soul

      August 3, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Walterr

      Christian the most two faced and fakes of all religion there is.people that like to rule everyone and judge no matter who u are or what u believe i myself is proud pagan.so go on with ur judge others cause that all u people know to do.and the companys just do ur bussiness.just leave the debate the ones in officess

      August 3, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • mc

      Jesus Christ!

      August 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  20. Rick

    I will just BELIEVE THE BIBLE and go GOD'S WAY!! I've read the back of the "book" and i know who wins in the end...GOD'S PEOPLE!!!!!

    August 2, 2012 at 7:18 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.