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)

    DATED: 8/27/2012
    TIME: 11:30 A.M.




    August 27, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  2. BJ

    Everything is a "hate group" if you don't agree. And telling people to keep their faith to themselves is unAmerican. Completely violating the first Amendment. You don't like it then don't shop at their stores or buy their products.

    Just like if I don't agree with atheists or liberals, or whoever, no way would I say keep your beliefs to yourselves then my world would be much nicer. We ALL have freedoms, not just one group or another.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Robert Warner

      As an atheist and civil liberties supporter, I agree with you with a caveat; this religious support should be made clear before they take my money. That way, I am not tricked into supporting hate or discrimination.

      August 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  3. vytas

    I agree with tallulah13. Indeed I don't care what the owner's beliefs are, as long as they don't act on them, especially in a political way. "Keep thy religion to thyself" and I will not have any problem with it.

    August 27, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Frank

      You and others like you obviously care...or else you would not take the time to say something.

      August 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. Susan

    I don't care if a business is Christian or not but I do care if a business is taking patrons money and donating millions to hate groups that try to take away any US Citizens rights. All people deserve equal treatment.

    August 26, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Damocles


      August 26, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Leeseh

      Wal-Mart a Christian company? Don't make me laugh. Keeping their employees at poverty level wages, taking the government because the employees don't make enough to afford health care. Is that Christian? Don't think so.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Frank

      As long as it is the POLITICALLY correct hate group of the day and media backed, well, its OK then to hate. Like your words now and those like you...HYPOCRITES!!

      August 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Jack

    Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Renee

    don't forget Domino's Pizza and "Catholic Land" theme park in Florida:


    August 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm |


    August 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • TheMagusNYC

      Obama is not evil, and Romney is not a Christian.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  8. delcisco

    It bears repeating: Who cares if a company is "Christian" or not - I care whether they're actively seeking legislation against my rights.

    August 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • TheMagusNYC

      How bout 2/3 of TX schools run by for-profit Turkish Muslims?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  9. mangus

    Guess Walmart doesn't really get the whole Christian charity thingie.

    August 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • cutecape

      Actually, locally here on the Gulf Coast of FL, they do get the charity thingy. But it tends to be local organizations, a lot of merchandise and in kind donations. It is always very much appreciated.

      August 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Jurtin

    Anybody who stops shopping at these stores (or using these services) because of their religious affiliations is being ridiculous. If atheism is supposed to inspire "the ability to see that everybody is equal" and whatnot, then not shopping at a place because the owner happens to disagree with your values is just ignorant and closed-minded.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • reality check

      Who ever said athiests want to inspire everyone to be equal? Athiests just want religious people to stop trying to ram their ridiculous beliefs down everybody else's throats.

      August 26, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      As a consumer, I can chose not to spend my money at a place that supports politics I find repugnant. I don't care what they believe, but when they act on their beliefs in a way that is detrimental to others, I am more than happy to do my small part in creating negative consequences for those actions.

      August 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  11. atomD21

    Unless these corporations are actually doing business completely ethically and responsibly and treating all people the way Jesus taught, the fact that a CEO or founder is Christian is completely irrelevant.

    August 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  12. Pest

    Thanks for the boycott list, Dan.

    August 23, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  13. Jesus Chirst

    I don't eat at ChickF, I hate Paprika and besides I hate chicken. As far as the gay thing, me and Pete can't cast the first stone on that one.

    August 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  14. AtlantaGuy

    Seriously, Walmart – Religious Values? HUH ???? – Walmart is the epitome of extreme greed and power – certainly not Christian Values.

    August 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Greasehauler

      Oh, yes they are...

      August 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Jim

    I am a big fan of Sam Walton, his brother Bud, and his Children, tho Sam and Bud are both in heaven, and son John as well. People complain about the wages he pays his employees, but he can employee more people at that wage than any other major retailer. Think for a minute, if he were to raise his hourly wages, he might have to cut the workforce by 10-15%
    which could mean thousands more unemployeed. He used to have his Christian principles on the walls of his stores,
    and wholesale clubs. More power to the largest employer in the country. Same goes for Dan Cathy at Chick-fil-a.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • nolapearl

      I don't call it Christian values when part of your new employee orientation is to show employees how to apply for state benefits for the rest of the taxpayers to subsidize when 4 of the 10 richest Americans are Waltons.

      August 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • denise

      I don't do Wally, but In-N-Out pays their employees $10 hr to start unlike Wally. Wally is no more christian than say Amazon.

      August 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  16. Anti-ChristoFascist

    Thanks, that adds to the list of companies I will never spend my money at again.

    August 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • William

      Me too except for Wal-Mart. I don't mind their offering religious themed books.

      August 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Bayousara

      I agree, my list has been added to as well. I worked for Walmart and had major differences with them involving how they treated their employees (those being mostly min wage). I was blatently lied to by two asst managers at the Talent, Oregon WM location. But I retaliated. I had a good work record, but one asst manager made my job miserable (I was retired from my full-time job and was just working there for pocket money). So I had a local business owner call the store to get an employee reference from them and this asst mgr was the one who gave it. It was a terrible report. So I passed that info along to high management (plus a word about suing) and the asst mgr was fired. Soon another asst mgr quit because he was sick of WM's crappy treatment of their underlings.

      August 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • John D Hater

      Me either!!!

      August 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • cmatheny2

      ROFL, so you have been supporting these companies and now you won't because they are on the Hit list. You are so well informed, hahahaha!!!!

      August 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  17. old golfer

    Thanks for the list. I won't patronize any of these places any more.

    August 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  18. incredulous

    Forever 21 uses a lot of sweatshop labor. Not very Christian.

    August 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • dctrm

      And Walmart doesn't use cheap Chinese (I think you could argue the word "sweatshop" in there) labor?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  19. Jack

    Greetings folks. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  20. YJ


    August 21, 2012 at 4:14 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.