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. arizonalib

    Haven't shopped at Walmart in years, can't stand In an Out, allergic to peanut oil so Chik Filet is out, now know I won't shop at Hobby Lobby, so I'm all set. Thanks CNN. While I don't care one iota what owners of these companies believe, I don't agree with the charities they support, the message that their employees have to believe the same, or that they are somehow think they are better because of their beliefs. Beliefs are not facts.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Lulu9248

      @arizonalib Great response. Could not agree more. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to vote with my feet headed away from companies I do not agree with.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  2. harinder

    All the good christians in the south supported slavery, KKK stll lurks here and there. What hypocites. What if Jesus comes and he turns to be black . Karl Marx was right 100%, RELIGION is opium for the masses. The funny thing is that in this day and age of twiitter and mass communication, we still have lot of ignorance floating around. There is NO HOPE FOR MANKIND

    August 4, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Pinewalker

      MLK was a pastor and had strong faith....every group has its bad apples. How many obnoxious gay people do you know? How many black people who are just as racist against whites as the KKK is against them. Everything is relative.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  3. Nietodarwin

    These are great times to be an atheist. We can express our REASON for our lack of belief on the internet without fear of being MURDERED by some god loving nut. THESE BOYCOTTS are going to take a financial toll on these companies. RECORD SALES (for a day) dwindling profits for years and decades. These xstians are just like the rest of us when it comes down to making a buck, O GLORIOUS DAY, the FREE MARKET will be weighing in on this in the coming months.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  4. Nietodarwin

    America’s “Nones” — the nonreligious — are at an all-time high, now comprising nearly one in five Americans (19%), according to a new study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. The 19% count is based on aggregated surveys of 19,377 people conducted by the Pew Research Center throughout 2011 and reported by USA Today.

    LOSE almost %20 of your business with your mouth Mr. Cathy. Great business practices.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Pinewalker

      But yet you wouldn't say the same about a business owenr who lost 20% of their busiess because they came out as gay. That's very double standard of you. People have to be true to themselves no matter what their beliefs are.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  5. sir_ken_g

    Thank's for the list – I will be sure NOT to deal with them.

    August 4, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Bert

      I plan on going to these businesses more now because I am Christian. Notice they have been open about their religion and have still been successful. There are a very large percentage of Americans that are Christians.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  6. SilverHair

    I don't go to these place of use these items. Haven't for years.

    August 4, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  7. Bill

    I'd be happier if Tyson chicken hired Rabbis too. They could get both counseling and Kosher chicken inspections. 🙂

    August 4, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  8. JRobinson

    Nine religious companies or nine Christian companies. What about the Baha'i faith. Zoroaster s, Buddhist 's

    August 4, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Robert Hawkins

      Stay on subject~

      August 4, 2012 at 7:28 am |
  9. POed Amircan

    Capitolism!!!! Christian rights we built this country you live in it love it or get out freaking dirty liberals

    August 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Michael Revels

      This Atheist liberal served his country and earned his rights. Kiss my *ss you religonut, intolerant, hateful unAmerican bigot

      August 4, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • I wonder

      POed Amircan

      So, you are an angry Arab chieftain who is for having more state legislative buildings... right?

      August 4, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • Lulu9248

      I am Christian and I believe in freedom of speech and religion. You sir, and your irrational bigoted rants, are giving Christians a bad name. Think about that next time you walk into a church founded on love and tolerance.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • David Larimer

      Looked POed Amircan,

      I'm an atheist capitalist and I built my part of this country just like any christian capitalist. This is my country and my part of it has nothing to do with christianity. I want it to stay that way.

      (but then maybe you're troll with a misspelling like that)

      August 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  10. johnnie

    Wal-mart built on waldon family principels, really? Chic-fil-a is closed on sundays out of respect for the faith of the founder, Mr. Cathy. This man truley lives his faith, I may not agree, but I respect his conviction! As for wal-mart, since sam walton died they have moved away from the faith base.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  11. RE McCray

    Service Master is the religious organization that spam emails everyone with American Home Shield ads that say God asked them to contact you ... freaks!

    August 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  12. lili13se

    I have no issue with a privately owned corporation being strongly religious. My issue with Chik-fil-a is the support of anti gay organizations, and the clear and present discrimination against a specific group. I myself am not religious, but if I condemn someone for being religious in and of itself, then I am no better than Dan Cathy.

    Norman, I applaud much of what you say, but I do wish you would use a little more self scrutiny. Sometimes you come perilously close to being a liberal version of Rush.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • merle

      Nature its self teaches us the gay life style is wrong. When God said be frutful and multiplly He never created two males.

      August 4, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  13. 0rangeW3dge

    this must be why we're having a war against the other Abrahamic families in America

    Evangelism through economics,,,,wow

    Maybe it's not new though, the Spanish brought "missionaries" along with them when they went searching for Gold...I guess it's nothing personal to burn your way through the countryside destroying people and their cultures,, "it's just good business"

    August 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  14. Charles Brown

    I can believe each company listed except Walmart. I am employed in a Walmart store and I can assure you there managerial practices are anything but religious. Yes, they put on a great public front but hourly employees are treated worse than cotton-mill slaves. Wages are ridiculous, benefits for employees and their families are virtually non-existent. Full-time employment, well that's a joke today. A company with a religious basis, you need to seriously reevaluate that one.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Those fit today's mainstream religious views.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • trea

      I am very familiar with walmart and I agree. As for the rest of the list, that's more money I'll save by not visiting them. Who needs it shoved at you?

      August 3, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Dustin

      As much as I hate to say it with jobs being in low supply, you don't have to work there. I'd tell them to put it right up their ass.

      August 4, 2012 at 7:57 am |



    August 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • mafia don

      Shucks! I thought I had a complaint! 🙁 🙂

      August 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

      Shucks! I thought I had a complaint Master! 🙁 🙂

      August 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • mizh

      Your caps key is stuck, darlin'.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  16. chad

    lol walmart, good values? yes... moving into small towns and destroying all local business and then paying employees low wages, when the company can easily afford to pay better and offer better healthcare . Yes sounds very good to me..

    August 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      That's one big trailer park family.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm |

    America became boring & shallow. 🙁
    Why should I even warrant a visit to America? 🙁
    Is America in my good books? NO! 🙁

    August 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • chad

      its not that bad here, there is alot of good people and it can be a good place to visit i promise .

      August 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Fred Schulman

      Hey UK Dave
      Please do not visit America. We are all racists and carry guns every where we go.
      Stay where it is safe and take in some soccer matches.

      August 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  18. brainyape

    So is that why walmart has the lowest wages and vert minimum employee benefits?

    August 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  19. mdchunter

    Just read Romans 1 and you can get clearly what is right and wrong. God said it, our job is to acknowledge it and obey it. If you have a question or don't understand it, go to HIM and talk to HIM about it. Love for one another trumps our faith and our hope. Be tolerant and love others, bottom line. It's that simple.

    August 3, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Does it trump a love for massive amounts of money?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • trea

      Where is HE? With the easter bunny???????

      August 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      someone that resorts to insults in a debate just confirms that the person resorting to insults can not discuss valid points

      August 4, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  20. yes

    Walmart has good christian values, making sure every child in the family has 15 billion dollars and that less than a 20th of a percent of it is donated. Its in the bible.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Dustin Uremovich

      You are a hater, yes. Wal-Mart has grown to become the largest retailer in the world from one store in Arkansas. Instead of begging them for handouts, you should try to emulate what they've done. But you won't your are a lazy person who thinks the rich company owes them. You sicken me.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Dustin

      Maybe he doesn't want to do what walmart has done. Because he's a decent human being.

      August 4, 2012 at 8:00 am |
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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.